The Veterans Administration will often schedule a C&P exam for you when you file a claim for benefits. C&P refers to Compensation and Pension which are two monetary benefits for veterans with disabilities.
It’s really important that you get prepared for the exam and you know what to expect when your exam is scheduled. The VA contracts out a lot of their exams. Sometimes the contractor company will call you to schedule the exam and other times you may just get a notice in the mail that the exam has been scheduled.
Before the C&P Exam
You should be given notice of the time and location of the exam, as well as the examiner’s name and the conditions that will be reviewed during the exam. It’s not at all unusual for the same examiner to handle multiple VA disability claims in a single exam. The exam may cover all of your claimed physical impairments. The VA does not require the examiner to be a medical doctor, so your exam may be scheduled with a nurse practitioner (“NP”) or a physician’s assistant (“PA”). Be sure that you are clear on all of these details before going to the exam.
The next thing that you ought to do to prepare is to look at the DBQ form. The DBQ form is the disability benefits questionnaire form that is sent to the C&P examiner. They fill that form out when they do the exam and that is the report that goes to the VA. It indicates what you’ve been diagnosed with and the severity of your symptoms. If you have an orthopedic issue, there may be range of motion measurements that need to be taken. You can access those DBQ forms on the VA’s website.
Be sure you know what is in your VA claim file as well as in your medical records. If there is a particular test report that is important to your claim, like a sleep study result or a MRI report, consider taking a copy with you to give to the examiner. Although the examiner is supposed to review your entire disability claim file, things are often overlooked. Handing the test result or medical records directly to the examiner will help ensure that it is considered.
You should also submit any records that you give to the doctor to the VA if they are not already in your claims file. Be sure to include your VA claim file number with the submission so that there is no delay in getting the records into the file. This may help speed up your claim, or at least help avoid unnecessary delays.
During the Exam
Show up on time or a little early for your VA disability exam. You don’t want to be late and you don’t want to miss the exam. If an emergency comes up and you are unable to get to the exam, then it’s really important that you call the examiner’s office. Explain to them what’s happened. You also need to notify the VA that you’re going to miss the exam because the VA will get it rescheduled for you. The examiner will likely not do the rescheduling on their own.
Once you get to the claim exam, it’s really important that you’re very honest with the C&P examiner about how difficult things are for you and how severe your symptoms are. If you have a physical impairment, make sure to talk with them about how it affects your daily life and what you can and can’t do because of that condition.
This is not the time to act like you’re with friends and family and say, “oh yeah, I’m fine. Everything’s okay. It’s not that bad.” The examiner needs to know how bad things are, but be careful not to exaggerate. They’re going to know if you’re exaggerating.
If the VA claim is for a mental illness, then you may be nervous about having to talk to a stranger about things that are incredibly personal to you. Just know that the examiner is trained to do this mental health exam. They are not going to hear anything that they haven’t heard from someone else before. Remember that it is important that you’re honest with them about how bad things are. So if you are constantly getting into fights with family members, if you are getting fired from jobs, if you have a problem with substance abuse, you need to discuss these with the examiner about that because the examiner is going to be the one who is telling the VA how severe your symptoms are and how they affect you.
After the Exam
Once the exam is over and you get home, you should make some notes about what happened during the exam – particularly if you think something didn’t go well, if the examiner was rude or if they didn’t do the things you thought they should have done. So for example, if you go to the appointment for your shoulder injury and they don’t do any range of motion measurements, then you need to make a note of that and you need to tell the VA that because chances are the report is going to say that your range of motion was normal.
The C&P Exam Report
The next thing that you need to do after you get home is to request a copy of the evaluation report. You can do that by requesting it directly from the VA. The examiner cannot give you a copy. If you are represented, then your representative can easily access the report once the examiner has sent it to the VA.
Review the report to see what the examiner has told the VA. You want to make sure that any notes the examiner made about the severity of your symptoms is recorded in that report. If the VA is trying to make a decision about whether or not your condition is service connected, then in addition to the DBQ report, the examiner probably also filled out a medical opinion form, and they will indicate whether or not they think that your current medical condition is related to something that happened to you in service. This is called the nexus opinion, and it is one of the three things you have to prove in order to have a condition that is service-connected.
If the opinion is not favorable, review it carefully to see if the examiner missed some evidence in your file or didn’t address something that you felt was important. You need to notify the VA if you have any objections to the exam. Otherwise, the VA is going to take what the examiner says and use it. You need to do this quickly because there is often only a very short period of time between the exam and the ratings decision denying your claim.
The Ratings Decision
If you get the ratings decision and it’s a denial of service connection or grants disability ratings that you believe are lower than you think you should receive, then go back through that decision and look to see if they relied on the information in the C&P exam report. Compare what the report says to the decision. If they do not match and the decision does not explain why the VA disagreed with the opinion of the examiner, then this may be a basis for an appeal.
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