A Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam is a medical examination of a veteran’s disability, performed by a VA healthcare provider, or a VA contracted provider. VA uses C&P exams to gather more evidence on a veteran’s claimed condition before issuing a decision and assigning a rating. Most commonly, C&P exams are used to (1) confirm or deny service connection, and/or (2) establish the severity of a veteran’s disability. Throughout the C&P exam, the examiners will ask questions about your disability and how it affects aspects of daily functioning. During this process, the examiner might complete a VA Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ).
VA Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs)
DBQs are downloadable forms created for veterans’ use in the evaluation process for VA disability benefits. Specifically, DBQs are supposed to help speed the processing of claims for service-connected compensation and give veterans more control over the disability claims process. While veterans are able to access these forms, they cannot fill them out themselves. Instead, veterans have the option of visiting a private healthcare provider or a VA healthcare provider to get this evaluation completed. When having a private healthcare provider complete a DBQ, it is important for veterans to do the following:
- Access the form online through VA’s website and download it;
- Have your private doctor or healthcare provider complete the form;
- Review their findings and save a copy for your records; and
- Submit the form to VA.
The streamlined forms use check boxes and standardized language so that the disability evaluation can be made quickly and correctly. Specifically, healthcare providers will “check a box” next to descriptions that most accurately depict the disability in question. The use of DBQs also provides veterans with an improved means to submit medical evidence to support their claims. It is important for veterans to be honest about their symptoms in order to ensure documentation and a true reflection of the level of impairment caused by the claimed conditions. DBQs can also sometimes replace a C&P examination entirely. This is helpful because C&P examinations often add to the long wait times experienced throughout the disability claims process.
Medical Conditions Covered by DBQs
There are currently more than 70 DBQs covering a full range of medical conditions. Some of the DBQs are specific to a single condition (e.g. hypertension, arthritis, prostate cancer), but most forms can be used for several related conditions (e.g. heart conditions, kidney conditions). VA has a list of all of the conditions covered by DBQs, including access to the downloadable forms, on its website. It is important to note that the DBQs are divided into categories. To find the correct DBQ for your condition, you should first find the appropriate category. Then, if your specific condition is not listed, you can use the DBQ that is the most general and all-encompassing for that category. For example, you are looking for a DBQ that corresponds with your Generalized Anxiety Disorder. There will be three different DBQs under the Psychological category: Eating Disorders, PTSD, and Mental Disorders (other). Here, since Generalized Anxiety Disorder does not have its own DBQ, you would use the DBQ for Mental Disorders as it broadly covers the claimed condition. While DBQs are available for a majority of conditions, there are no DBQs for the following:
- Initial examination for PTSD
- Hearing loss and tinnitus
- Residuals of TBI
- Cold injury residuals
- Prisoner of war examination protocol
- Gulf War medical examination
- General medical examination for compensation purposes
- General medical examination for pension purposes
Common Problems with DBQs
While DBQs can be a very helpful and effective way to demonstrate your level of impairment as it relates to a claimed condition, there are also several disadvantages. For example, the DBQ form is different than the evaluation guidelines for C&P examinations. Specifically, the DBQ forms do not ask healthcare providers to include descriptions or rationales for any symptoms listed or conclusions drawn during the examination. Therefore, if you have a DBQ completed by a private healthcare provider, it is important to let them know that they should support their answers with a written explanation even if the form does not require it. Additionally, veterans have the option to take a DBQ to a private provider for completion, but they are then responsible for any related co-pay or costs, including costs for travel or testing. In this case, VA does not reimburse veterans.