So, you just received an appointment for a VA Compensation and Pension (C&P) Examination. Now what?
The C&P examination is one of the most important appointments a Veteran should keep when pursuing a claim before the VA. Although it is not the only factor in deciding a claim, this examination assists the VA in evaluating a Veteran’s condition as to the severity and whether the condition relates to military service.
Most Veterans both look forward to and dread these important examinations for several reasons. For starters, a C&P examination (or examinations, pending the number and type of disabilities claimed) can take some time to complete. A doctor will need to examine the Veteran for the conditions, which may include standard medical testing, providing lab specimens, answering specific personal questions, etc. Some evaluations may require Range of Motion (ROM) testing, repetitive testing, and recording of limitations, flare-ups, and impact of function (or lack thereof) regarding employment.
Upon receiving the notice of examination, it is very important that the Veteran attends on the date and time prescribed. As the Veteran is the only one who is notified of the examination, it is equally important to notify the Veteran’s representative or attorney of the upcoming appointment. The representative may want to discuss certain aspects of the examination prior to attending.
The VA Regional Office (RO) is responsible for incorporating all of the pertinent records it receives regarding a Veteran’s claim. These records include procedural history, Service Treatment and Personnel records, and any documents submitted by the Veteran. This file is called the Claims File, or C-file for short. When a C&P examination is scheduled, the RO is instructed to provide the examiner with the C-file, either by hard copy, or electronically (called Virtual VA files). The examiner is supposed to review all records supplied by the RO in order to assist in evaluating the condition and providing an opinion.
One of the biggest mistakes a Veteran can make when in front of the examiner is telling them that they feel “fine”. This indicates to the examiner that there is no current condition to be evaluated, or that there is no severity to the claim in which the Veteran is being examined for, even if there is sufficient documentation in the C-file.
A great way to prepare for this examination is to keep a Journal. Journaling about a Veteran’s condition helps in several ways: (1) it can assist the Veteran in remembering his or her conditions, the severity of the conditions, and the limitations the conditions provide; (2) it helps record and remember dates of flare-ups; (3) it can help the Veteran accurately record sleep, or lack thereof due to pain; (4) it assists the Veteran in articulating to the examiner exactly how the condition affects him or her on a day-to-day basis; and (5) it may assist the Veteran’s representative or attorney better understand the complete picture and look for potentially compensable secondary disabilities. If any documents, such as Journal entries, examinations of note and/or treatment records not already established in the C-file are essential to the claim, the Veteran should submit copies of these to the examiner for review.
Once the examination is completed, the doctor will prepare a report to the RO. This report may contain a written opinion using language such as “at least as likely as not” (which equates to a 50-percent chance or greater), “less likely than not” (which equates to less than a 50-percent chance), or “more likely than not” (which equates to greater than a 50-percent chance); this jargon indicates whether the condition relates to service, and at what degree of certainty per the examiner.
It is important to note that the RO is the entity that makes the disability entitlement decision, not the VA examining facility.