Top Tips for C&P Exams
Compensation & Pension exams can be very stressful for veterans. These exams can bring up painful memories and frustrating conversations, as they often require the veteran to have a certain degree of openness with the examiner.
As such, many veterans dread the moment when they receive a C&P exam request from VA. If you find yourself in this situation, you are not alone. However, there are certain tips and tricks you can follow to help make the process as seamless as possible. Continue reading for CCK’s top tips for C&P exams.
What is a C&P Exam?
A Compensation and Pension, or C&P, exam is a medical exam ordered by VA to evaluate the condition(s) a veteran is claiming for disability compensation.
Performed by a VA contracted provider, C&P exams are used to
- Confirm or deny service connection, and/or
- Establish the severity of a veteran’s disability
Before the exam, the examiner will review your entire claims file, which contains previously submitted evidence and service medical treatment records.
Since medical evidence is crucial to a veteran’s disability case, C&P exams are provided by VA at no cost to the veteran as part of VA’s duty to assist.
After applying for service-connected compensation, VA will send a notice either informing you that an exam has been scheduled or indicating that you will need to schedule one on your own behalf.
How to Prepare Before an Exam
To prepare for your exam, you should know that you most likely will have to talk about your condition and about your military service. It can be very helpful to write down a list of symptoms you experience and how frequently you experience them.
If your condition is linked to one specific stressor from your military service, it can be helpful to come prepared with specific details. For example, if you have a condition linked to a car accident you had while in service, you may want to write down the details such as when the accident was, where you were going, if anyone was with you, and how you were injured.
Important Tips for C&P Exams to Remember
Tip #1. Always Attend Your Exam
VA places a lot of weight on these exams when adjudicating your claim and it is crucial that you attend. If you do not attend, or reschedule your initial C&P exam, it will most often result in a claim denial.
Be sure to inform VA of your inability to attend this exam as soon as possible and reschedule it.
If you are seeking an increased rating, missing your C&P exam could mean depriving your claim of up-to-date medical evidence as adjudicators may have to rely on the potentially outdated evidence of record.
When VA is scheduling you for an exam, they will usually contact you via phone or mail you a letter. As such, it is very important to ensure that VA has your most up-to-date contact information. If you move, or change phone numbers, you should contact VA as soon as possible so that you do not miss any communications.
Tip #2. Know What the Purpose of the Exam is Before You Attend
You should come to a C&P exam prepared to talk about your disabilities and how they impact your life and ability to work.
For example, for an orthopedic condition you should be prepared to discuss how this condition affects your ability to perform occupational tasks. For a psychological condition, you should be able to explain the impact it has on your daily life and ability to be productive at work.
Be prepared to answer questions related to the type of claim you are being examined for (e.g., increased rating, service connection, etc.)
Tip #3. Be Honest
Be honest about what happened in service to cause your disability and the symptoms you currently experience. Your C&P examiner should have read through your file and will compare your statements on the day of the exam to the statements you have previously provided.
Consistency is a key factor here and you do not want to discredit yourself.
Tip #4. Don’t Downplay the Severity of Your Symptoms
C&P exams 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.” This is because the examiner is noting down everything you say. Instead reply honestly about how your disability is impacting you.
Be sure to mention any flare-ups you may have, how severe they are, and how often you experience them.
- Explain frequency and nature of “bad days”
- Consider bringing a list of symptoms to ensure you will not forget to mention any
- It may also be helpful to bring a family member or friend to attend your C&P exam with you as they can help fill in any gaps of information you may have missed
You should also be sure that you are appearing in front of the examiner just as you would in everyday life. For example, if you need a brace or cane to walk most days, make sure you are wearing that brace or bringing that cane to the exam. If you depression makes it extremely difficult to care for yourself each day and maintain your personal hygiene, you should try not to overdress for the exam.
Tip #5. Don’t Exaggerate
Malingering is the specific term to classify exaggeration of symptoms. Examiners will note any suspected exaggeration 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 DBQ or write a statement.
Tip #6. Bring a Companion
In most exams, you can bring someone to accompany you. Bringing someone with you can be a major asset for many reasons.
Veterans tend to understate their symptoms when discussing them during exams. Bringing a companion, such as a spouse, can help veterans accurately capture how their symptoms affect them daily.
For example, if you suffer from sleep apnea, your spouse might have better knowledge of how often you truly experience daytime sleepiness, insomnia, or other symptoms. If you bring your spouse to the exam, they may be able to speak to the examiner about how they see your symptoms affect you and how often.
Additionally, if a veteran is suffering from a mental illness, they may have more difficulty knowing what symptoms they are experiencing and how severe they can be. Bringing a companion can help ensure that the veteran’s symptoms are accurately communicated to the examiner.
Tip #7. Request a Copy of Your Exam
After your exam, you should request a copy of the exam report. You can do this by sending a letter to your Regional Office.
Once you obtain this information, you should review the report to ensure that it adequately represents what you discussed with the examiner. If you feel as though the results were not adequate, you or your representative can respond with reasons as to why you feel this way, and you may be able to request another exam.
VA weighs C&P exams heavily when adjudicating claims, so it is important that you review these results.
Tip #8. Know Your Options Following an Exam
If your C&P exam results are unfavorable, you have several options.
Accredited representatives can obtain private medical opinions to counter the VA exam.
You can also check the credentials of the VA examiner to determine whether they were qualified to opine on the your 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.
You may also:
- Gather and submit lay statements
- Request a hearing with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals
- When submitting a Substantive Appeal (VA Form 9) in the appeals process, you have the option to request a Board hearing.
- Doing so allows you and your attorney to point out the specific problems with your C&P exam and present evidence that may counter or weaken the exam results.
Getting Help After an Unfavorable Exam
Sometimes, regardless of how prepared a veteran is for an exam or knowing all the tips they may need, the examiner’s report can be unfavorable. If you find yourself facing an unfavorable C&P exam and are unsure of what steps you can take to overcome it, help is available to you. The veterans’ advocates at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick have helped veterans overcome negative exam results before and we may be able to help you. Call our office today for a free case evaluation.
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