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Veterans Law

What to Expect at a VA C&P Exam

Alyse Phillips

June 15, 2023

Updated: June 20, 2024

What to expect at a va cp exam 1

What Is a Compensation and Pension (C&P) Examination?

Compensation and Pension (C&P) examinations are medical exams ordered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  VA uses these exams to gather more evidence on a veteran’s claimed condition before issuing a decision and assigning a disability rating.

During a C&P exam, a VA examiner or VA-contracted examiner will evaluate the veteran’s condition to (1) confirm or deny service connection, and/or (2) establish the severity of the disability.  After a veteran’s C&P exam is complete, the examiner will write up a report that includes a review of the exam’s findings, any clinical test results, and any medical literature used by the examiner to determine etiology.

Essentially, VA has a “duty to assist” veterans in obtaining evidence to support their claim.  Since medical evidence is crucial to a veteran’s case, VA provides C&P exams at no cost to the veteran to fulfill its duty to assist.  Veterans seeking disability compensation for more than one service-connected condition may be required to attend a separate C&P exam for each disability.

How Do I Schedule a C&P Exam?

After a veteran applies for disability compensation, VA will send a notice either informing you that a C&P exam has been scheduled or indicating that the veteran will need to schedule one on your own.  If an exam is already scheduled, VA will provide the date, time, and location that it will take place.  If the veteran is responsible for scheduling the exam, they must respond promptly by reaching out to the Compensation and Pension Department at VA.

Either way, it is very important to attend any scheduled C&P exams.  VA will likely deny your claim if you miss your exam.  If you know you cannot attend, reach out to VA as soon as possible to reschedule.

Who Will Conduct My C&P Exam?

C&P exams are conducted by VA medical professionals or third-party medical professionals contracted by VA. The examiner is not always a doctor – nurse practitioners and physicians assistants are also authorized to conduct these exams.

How Can I Prepare for a C&P Exam?

During the C&P exam, the examiner will ask questions about your disability and how it affects aspects of daily functioning.  It is important to be honest about your symptoms so that they can be properly documented.  If it helps, you can make a list of your symptoms, their frequency, and how they affect your day-to-day life before you are prepared.

Bringing a friend or family member to your exam may also be beneficial so that they may serve as a witness to the symptoms that impact your daily life.

What Happens During a C&P Exam?

Before the exam, the VA examiner will review your entire claims file, which contains previously submitted evidence and medical treatment records.  The C&P exam itself typically lasts about 15 to 20 minutes; however, it can range anywhere from five minutes to several hours.

As mentioned above, the examiner will ask questions about your disability during the exam and it is important to be honest about the severity of your condition.  For example, if the examiner asks, “how are you today?” be honest and try to avoid the polite reply of “I’m doing well.”  The examiner will note down everything you say.

VA examiners might complete a Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) as well.  Each DBQ is drafted to correspond with a specific condition and is formatted for examiners to “check a box” next to descriptions that most accurately depict the disability in question.

Be sure to mention any flare-ups you may have, how severe they are, and how often you experience them.  It is important for the examiner to get an accurate picture of what your “bad days” are like and how often you have them.

C&P Exams for Physical vs. Mental Health Conditions

There is also a distinction between VA C&P exams for physical conditions and mental health conditions.  For example, during a VA C&P exam for a knee disability, the examiner may test a veteran’s range of motion.  Specifically, examiners use a goniometer to determine how far a veteran can move the body part that is affected (e.g., how many degrees the right knee bends).  Examiners will also look at the functional loss caused by the veteran’s condition, including problems with standing, walking, lifting, etc.

For mental health conditions, VA C&P exams usually have more to do with how a veteran’s psychiatric condition affects their everyday life as evidenced by their relationships with others, ability to work, cognitive functioning, and more.

Understanding the Results of a C&P Exam

Following the exam, the examiner may issue a favorable or unfavorable C&P report.  A favorable C&P exam indicates that the examiner agrees with your claim, by either confirming that service connection is “at least as likely as not” or that it warrants a particular rating based on its severity.  An unfavorable exam would state that your condition is less likely than not related to service or not too severe.

It is also important to note that the VA examiner will not give you a copy of your results at the conclusion of the C&P exam.  Instead, they will give the exam results to VA adjudicators who will then decide your claim based on these results and any other pertinent records included in your C-file.

Therefore, after your C&P examination is complete, be sure to request a copy of your exam from VA.  To do so, you can contact your local VA Regional Office, call VA and request an appointment to view your file, or have your representative request a copy on your behalf.

Challenging a C&P Exam

Once you obtain this information, you should review the exam to ensure that it adequately represents what you reported to the examiner.  VA weighs C&P exams heavily when adjudicating claims, so it is important that you review the results.

If you feel as though the results were not adequate, you or your representative can respond directly to VA with reasons as to why you feel this way.  In addition, you or your representative can obtain an outside medical opinion from a private physician.  Finally, you can also submit lay statements further describing your condition and the severity of symptoms.

How CCK Can Help Veterans Overcome Unfavorable C&P Exams

If VA denied your claim based on an unfavorable C&P exam, Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick may be able to help.  The team of knowledgeable attorneys and claims agent at CCK have decades of experience helping veteran secure disability compensation from VA, and we may be able to help you too.  Reach out to CCK today to schedule your complimentary case review.


About the Author

Bio photo of Alyse Phillips

Alyse is a Supervising Attorney at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick. Since joining the firm in August of 2016, she has specialized in representing disabled veterans and their dependents before the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

See more about Alyse