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January/February 2023 -   -  


Filing a claim for VA disability benefits can be stressful. But most who have navigated the application process will tell you that it’s not the paperwork or the long wait times that make it stressful: it’s the C&P exam. These exams – performed by VA or medical contractors – determine if a disability is “as least as likely as not” caused by military service, which you must show to get VA benefits. Veterans have a right to these exams, and the VA has a duty to make sure these exams are thorough.

Because a positive medical opinion is needed for most benefits, it’s normal for veterans to feel nervous about them. They are often far away and are notoriously short and nerve-wracking, especially the part about giving personal medical information to a stranger. Many veterans worry they’ll say the wrong thing, forget important details, or that the examiner won’t listen to them.

The best way to combat these nerves is to be prepared to paint a detailed picture of your disability and the impact it has on your life. If you have a C&P exam coming up, here are some tips to help you get the most out of it:


Review the VA Disability Benefits Questionnaire

Every condition examined by the VA has a corresponding DBQ form, which can be found online. Consider reviewing the appropriate questionnaire before the exam so you know what to expect. If you are unsure which one to use, ask your VSO or the person who helped you schedule the exam. If you have any medical questions about the DBQ, it is highly recommended that you consult your doctor beforehand.

Write down your symptoms

Prepare a list of details about your condition. Also write down the most important things you want to tell the examiner about your issues. Before exam day, review your notes and get comfortable with them. You are less likely to be nervous or forget something if you know what you want to say. Bring these notes into the exam room so you won’t have to rely on memory during the appointment.

Focus on the following questions:

What specific events happened that you believe led to your disability? Specify where and when these events happened in service, and whether your current pain or symptoms are the same or a progression of the same pain or symptoms you felt in service.

What is most critical for the examiner to understand about your disability? Focus on what your symptoms are, how bad they are, how frequently you feel them, and how they affect your overall quality of life. If you are going in for an increased rating exam, be sure to describe how your symptoms have gotten worse since the last time you were examined.

PRO TIP: At every exam mention how your condition affects your ability to work. Does your disability cause attendance issues or prevent you from being part of a team? Has your disease made parts of your job impossible that were once easy? If you are no longer employed, how did your disability affect your decision to stop working? Note these things during the exam so they are part of your record if you seek employability benefits in the future.

Talk to your VSO

Your local VSO can help you determine what information is the most persuasive in getting your claim granted. Let them know the date and time of your appointment, and plan to consult them beforehand. Ask your VSO to go over the different rating levels for your disability, as different symptoms could entitle you to different amounts of compensation. Knowing the different symptom ratings can help pinpoint what to highlight to your examiner, especially if you are being examined for an increased rating claim.

PRO TIP:If your claim is related to your legs, knees, or feet, be sure to tell the examiner how much you rely on your assistive devices. Do you have to use them occasionally? Often? All the time?

Need a Closer Appointment or Can’t Attend Your Exam? Call Ahead.

The exams are usually done by a regional contracting company. The VA will try to schedule standard C&P exams within 50 miles of your address, or within 100 miles if you’re seeing a specialist. If the distance is too far for you to travel safely, call and have them reschedule you at a closer facility. If you cannot attend your exam, call to let the company know why you cannot make it. Canceling your appointment ahead of time will be less damaging to your claim than if you are a no-call, no-show.


Arrive early

Be early to avoid feeling rushed when you arrive. Some veterans choose to dress up for their C&P exam to make a good first impression, but it is best to show up in what you would usually wear, such as an outfit you might wear to go shopping. You want the way you look to represent how you appear in your day-to-day life. If you need assistive devices to walk, use them on exam day as you regularly would.

Bring your notes –and use them!

Remember to bring your notes and use them to share your story with the examiner. Do not wait for the examiner to ask you the questions you came prepared to answer; do it yourself. These examiners are overworked and may not ask detailed questions on their own.

Be proactive in describing what happened to you in service, what you’re experiencing now, and the impact your symptoms have on your life, relationships, and work. If an examiner mistreats you or refuses to listen to you, write it down, tell your VSO, and ask them to report the examiner.

PRO TIP: Examiners may over-emphasize the role of post-service jobs or events over your in-service experiences. To avoid this, be thorough when discussing your experiences in service. If you did not report your injury while on duty, be sure to explain why.

Bring someone for moral support

For most exams, you are allowed to bring a chaperone. This can be a spouse, family member, case worker, or friend. Having someone with you can make you feel more at ease, and another person in the exam room can make the examiner do a more thorough job. This person can also help you remember anything you might have forgotten to tell the examiner.

Remember: A C&P exam is a free medical evaluation designed to help you get the benefits you are entitled to. Being prepared to have a thorough and honest conversation with the examiner will increase your likelihood of getting the benefits you deserve.

All VA DBQ Forms are available at: https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/dbq_publicdbqs.asp

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship between the reader and the author or VVA’s Veterans Benefits Program. Before filing a claim for benefits, consult with a Veteran Service Officer to fully explore all of your options and available benefits.




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