You’ve applied for disability benefits, and now VA sends you for one or more medical evaluations known as Compensation and Pension (C&P) exams. A favorable C&P exam is important because your disability rating will be a direct outcome of the VA examiner’s findings.
With so much riding on the results, how can you set yourself up for a favorable C&P? Knowing what is important for you to say and do, or not say and do, is key.
As VA claim attorneys we do not attend the C&P evaluation. What we can do is arm you with insight and awareness to help guide you through the VA exam. There are no secrets here, just valuable help toward a successful C&P.
We start with what not to do during your C&P Exam:
C&P Exam “Don’ts”
- Don’t miss a scheduled exam. This only hurts your claim by delaying a process that is already slow. If you do not appear for your exam without good cause, you may not have another chance. You can and should request VA to reschedule the exam; however, VA may elect to rate your claim “as-is.” In this case, you may lose vital evidence supporting the severity or existence of a service-connected Without it, VA is more likely to award a low rating or deny the claim.
- Don’t take C&P exams lightly. This is not just another doctor’s visit where you go in without any preparation. You want to present the VA examiner with the information he or she needs to be able to properly rate your disability. By doing a few basic things, you can prepare ahead of time. This gives you some control over your situation, and you can enter the exam with more confidence. We explain more about how to prepare for the exam below, in the C&P Exam “Do’s”.
- Don’t exaggerate your condition. This can cause a VA examiner to suggest or accuse you of “malingering.” To malinger means to fake or embellish an impairment in order to scam the system and get disability benefits or increased disability ratings unfairly. VA examiners are on the lookout to spot malingerers. It also happens that examiners may misrepresent what you said in the exam and suggest in the C&P report that malingering occurred. Once labeled a malingerer, the veteran’s credibility becomes tarnished. Chances of a favorable decision or starting over are seriously undermined.
- Don’t understate your symptoms. If you are depressed, hurting, anxious, exhausted… the exam is not the time to suck it up and act like you’re not experiencing these troubles. So if you are not fine, don’t pretend to be fine. This is part and parcel of being upfront with your examiner.
- Don’t take “no” for an answer. Many initial applications for VA disability benefits are denied, where the C&P exam tilted the scales. If your C&P exam results are unfavorable, you should request a second C&P exam prior to VA’s final decision. You also have options to counter the examination reports. Bases of attack can include objecting to the competency of the VA examiner if he or she is not qualified to evaluate your specific condition; rebutting the evaluation via outside expert opinions, and exposing mistakes in the manner in which the conclusion was reached. Depending on your situation, this may be a good time to seek legal counsel. If your claim has already been denied or rated unsatisfactorily, we urge you to discuss your case with an experienced veteran’s attorney.
C&P Exam “Dos”
- Do prepare for each C&P exam you are asked to attend. As mentioned above, there are some very basic things that can greatly impact your examination results. This includes keeping a daily journal of your disability, knowing which disability is being evaluated, fortifying your claim application with the appropriate DBQ forms, and more. Keep reading about how to prepare for a C&P exam.
- Do be up front with your examiner. During the exam, how should you act, what should you say? With so much at stake, it’s important to give the examiner honest and straightforward responses to questions. Be clear and concise in your answers, as time in a C&P exam is limited. Preparation makes these communications go smoother.
- Do talk with your VA examiner with courtesy and respect. He or she likely has every day packed with exams. Their role in the claims process is to evaluate complex aspects of your physical and mental health in a short time.
- Do tell the examiner about the challenges you face. Explain how your disability keeps you from interacting with your family or friends, working a normal job, or doing the most basic activities of day-to-day life. If functionality is limited by pain, anxiety, or during flare ups—issues that can’t be measured or that may not be witnessed during the exam—let them know.
- Do bring your spouse (or someone close) with you to the appointment. While you may attempt to explain your condition to the examiner, your wife, husband or close friend will often have valuable insights into what you really go through in your day-to-day life because they live through it with you. This intimate perspective can bring great clarity to the extent of your suffering, long term personality changes, or other evidence that otherwise may be lost in the details. This becomes documented evidence in your case file. Note, you will need the C&P examiner’s approval of this person’s admittance into the exam.
- Do make notes of what happened after the exam. What condition was discussed and tested? Were measurements taken, and if so, how? What questions did the examiner ask you, and how did you answer? Do this as soon as possible following the exam while your memory is fresh. This can be of great help if you need to refute negative C&P results.
- Do get a copy of the C&P exam report. Soon after the VA exam, ask VA for a copy of the C&P examiner’s report. If the report is negative, you may have an opportunity to refute the unfavorable evidence on your own, with rebuttal evidence from your civilian physician, additional expert evidence, or other assistance. But without a copy of the report in your hands you are pretty much shooting blind.
Understand that sometimes VA will request a medical exam when seeking to disprove a case. If this happens, remain calm and get counsel from an accredited veteran’s attorney. Contact our firm with your concerns.
If you have questions about your C&P exam, we have answers.
Our law firm represents veterans across the country, and would be proud to represent you. We can greatly ease your burden and increase your chances of receiving the VA disability benefits you deserve.