How Do I Know if My C&P Exam Went Well?
C&P exams are notoriously frustrating, stressful, and confusing for many veterans. The VA C&P exam process can be difficult to navigate, and many veterans find themselves unsure of how to successfully support their claim during the exam. After completing a C&P exam, it can be hard to know exactly how the exam went. Continue reading to learn how to determine if an exam went well.
What is a Compensation & Pension Exam?
In order to understand if a Compensation & Pension exam went well, it is important to first understand the purpose of the exam. A Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam is an exam requested by VA to evaluate a veteran’s disabilities and the connection they have to a veteran’s service. Specifically, C&P exams are often conducted to determine if service connection is warranted and to collect evidence to assign a VA disability rating if service connection is granted.
A C&P exam is usually performed by a VA examiner or a VA contracted examiner. Prior to the exam, the examiner should review the veteran’s c-file so they are familiar with the veteran’s case. During the exam, the examiner may physically examine the veteran, and ask questions regarding the veteran’s condition, their military service, or the connection between the veteran’s condition and their service. They also may ask questions about the veteran’s day-to-day life in order to understand how the veteran’s condition impacts their lifestyle.
What Are Some Red Flags During a VA C&P Exam?
Sometimes with C&P exams, there are red flags raised by the actions of the examiner that can make a veteran question whether the exam is going well or not. Additionally, sometimes veterans can negative affect their C&P exams without realizing it. Below are some indicators of red flags that both the veteran and the examiner can raise during the C&P exam process.
Veteran Fails to Attend
One of the major red flags that can indicate your exam did not go well is if you did not attend in the first place. It is very understandable to become frustrated with the exam process. Some exams can be very taxing, especially when discussing aspects of mental health or other triggering conditions which can bring up a lot of emotions. However, although exams can be very difficult, veterans should be sure to attend the exam.
If veterans fail to attend an exam, or fail to follow up with VA to schedule an exam that has been requested, VA can deny their claim. Some exams may seem redundant, as two exams could be requested for two conditions that are connected, however veterans should attend both exams.
VA will request an exam with the veteran via phone call or letter. As such, it is crucial to ensure that VA has your most up-to-date contact information. Additionally, conflicts do arise and sometimes a veteran may be unable to attend an exam. If this is the case, the veteran should contact VA as soon as possible to reschedule. If you missed an exam without realizing it, you should also contact VA as soon as possible to reschedule.
Examiner Fails to Attend/Rushes the Exam
A red flag can also be raised if the examiner fails to attend or rushes through the exam, failing to pay full attention to the veteran or their statements. If this is the case, the veteran can submit a statement to VA describing the situation, so that VA knows the veteran does not agree with how the exam was conducted.
Veteran Misrepresents Symptoms
The wording you use in VA C&P exams is often very important. This is because your relationship with a C&P examiner is very different from that of your treating physician. Compensation and Pension examinations are not conducted to diagnose or treat a condition, but rather to get a picture of how severe the disability is and how it impacts you on a daily basis. When the examiner asks, “how are you today?” be honest and try to avoid the polite reply of “I’m doing well.” Sometimes a C&P examiner can interpret this casual remark as the veteran suggesting they do not have debilitating symptoms. Ultimately, being as honest about your condition and your symptoms as possible will help give you the best chance that your symptoms are accurately captured in the record.
It can also help to mention any flare-ups you may have, how severe they are, and how often you experience them. Explain what your “bad days” are like and how often they occur. Some veterans find it helpful to bring a list of symptoms to their examinations to ensure they won’t forget to mention any. It may also be beneficial to bring a family member or friend to attend your C&P exam with you as they may be able to help fill in any gaps of information you may have missed.
However, on the flip side, exaggerating symptoms can also negatively affect your C&P exam. There is a specific term to classify exaggeration of symptoms, called malingering. C&P examiners will note any suspected malingering in their report.
If you believe this is wrongfully noted in your exam, ask your family or friends to submit a statement in support of the severity level you described or ask your treating physician to complete a Disability Benefits Questionnaire or write a statement.
Examiner Misrepresents Symptoms
On the other hand, the examiner may also misrepresent the veteran’s symptoms in the record. For example, the examiner could say that the veteran had no limitation of their range of motion, yet they may have failed to conduct a Range of Motion test. In other examples, the examiner may not record the symptoms the veteran verbally describes to them. If this happens, veterans do have options to refute the examiners findings. Veterans can submit a statement saying that they refute the findings. Additionally, the veteran can obtain a private medical opinion to contradict the findings.
Examiner Is Not Qualified
While a veteran may not always know if an examiner is qualified to be conducting the exam, researching beforehand is the best way for veterans to be informed about their examiner prior to the exam. Specifically, if the veteran is being examined for an orthopedic condition, an examiner who is an audiologist may not be qualified to be examining and opining on an orthopedic condition.
What Are Signs a VA C&P Exam Went Well?
Much like red flags, signs that an exam went well can be hard to spot. Below are some signals which might indicate that your exam went well.
You Were Honest
Ultimately, the most important aspect of any C&P exam is honesty. Your C&P examiner will have already—or will soon read through your file and compare your statements on the day of the exam to the statements you’ve previously provided. Consistency is a key factor here and you do not want to discredit yourself. Be honest about your symptoms, any flare-ups you may have, and how your condition affects your life.
You Brought a Companion
One very helpful tip for having a successful VA C&P exam is to bring a companion. A companion can often help you answer any questions an examiner may ask which could trip you up.
An example of a person you could bring may be a spouse or family member. A spouse may have insight on how the veteran’s conditions affect their day to day life and may be able to provide valuable insight. For example, a veteran may be unaware of or downplay how their conditions impact their sleep schedule while a spouse may be able to speak to that. The spouse may notice that the veteran tosses and turns often and has difficulty falling asleep, which they can then express to the examiner.
Additionally, those who experience mental health conditions may have difficulty expressing how their condition is affecting them. While the veteran may not be aware that they have a short temper, their spouse or family member can tell the examiner that they notice the veteran has a short temper, mood swings, or other symptoms that impact their daily life because of their condition.
You Attended the Exam and Had a Polite Attitude
As mentioned above, attendance is arguably the most crucial part of any exam since a veteran’s claim can be denied if they do not attend an exam. Additionally, maintaining a polite attitude is also important to ensure that the exam goes as well as possible. While veterans should not mask their pain by feigning positivity, it is essential to maintain civility with your examiner.
A C&P exam is not the place to argue your case, or express frustration with the VA legal process, and doing so can negatively impact your case. C&P examiners are not adjudicators, so discussing rating criteria or VA case law with them is both unnecessary and unhelpful. In theory, C&P examiners should be unbiased whenever writing a report regarding a veteran’s conditions. However, it is best not to chance the possibility of the examiner writing a negative exam opinion because the veteran was rude or extremely argumentative.
Ultimately, if you attend your exam, focus on describing your condition(s), symptomology, and medical nexus, and remember to be civil to your examiner, you give yourself the best chance of having a successful C&P exam.
What To Do After a C&P Exam
The best, and often only, way to tell if a C&P exam went well for the veteran is to read the exam report. However, VA does not issue the veteran a copy of the report unless they specifically request it. To do this, veterans can send a letter requesting a copy of their exam report to their Regional Office.
Once you receive a copy of the exam report, you should review it to ensure it adequately represents the details you reported to the examiner.
If you feel as though the exam report does not adequately represent what you reported to the examiner, you or your representative can respond with reasons as to why you feel this way. VA weighs C&P exams heavily when adjudicating claims, so it is important that you review these results.
While some exam reports may be unfavorable, there are ways to contest the findings. Accredited representatives can obtain private medical opinions to counter VA exams. Additionally, veterans’ advocates can investigate the credentials of the VA examiner to question whether they were qualified to opine on the veteran’s particular condition. For example, a doctor specializing in orthopedic conditions should not be examining a veteran’s post-traumatic stress disorder. You may request to see your examiner’s credentials using a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
Lastly, just because the exam has finally been completed, try not to assume that you will never have to attend another exam for that condition. Exams, and re-examinations, are frequent in VA’s claims and appeals process. If a veteran does not have a permanent and total rating, then a re-examination will usually be requested every 5 years.
It is important to attend all C&P examinations, regardless of if they are reexaminations. Failure to attend the exam could result in a reduction or termination of benefits.
Getting Help Overcoming a Negative VA C&P Exam
Sometimes, negative VA exam C&P results can severely impact a veteran’s claim. If you need help refuting a negative exam, an accredited representative may be able to assist you. The veterans’ advocates at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick have helped veterans facing an unfavorable exam in the past and may be able to assist you. Call our office today for a free case evaluation.
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