Independent Medical Opinion: VA Nexus Letter
Christian McTarnaghan: Hi, everyone. Welcome to CCK Live Under 5:00. I’m Christian McTarnaghan and today I’m going to be discussing independent or private medical opinions in VA disability claims.
So, let’s hit a quick overview. Independent medical opinions, which are sometimes referred to as IMOs, are medical opinions that the Board of Veterans’ Appeals typically requests in your case. When the Board is reviewing your appeal, they might discover that there are some medical questions that have been left unanswered, or that some of the prior examinations that happened in your case, that were authored in your case were inadequate.
When this happens, the Board might request an IMO from a doctor of a specialty that is relevant to the pending appeal. So, IMOs are based on a review of the evidence that’s currently in the record. So, I just want to point that out because it’s important. This is not like a comp and pen exam where you’re going to have to go and actually be examined in order for the opinion to issue.
So, what happens in an IMO? How are they written? So, the IMO is required to know about your case. They need to understand the facts and the records. So, for example, if it’s a service connection case, they should know about your in-service injury, your in-service exposure. They should know about your diagnosis, history of treatment, and things like that.
So, an independent medical opinion can help do a few things. It can rebut a negative comp and pen exam, a C&P examination. It can help establish a medical nexus and elements of your service connection claim. I see this a lot in my practice in exposure issues to herbicides because those can be some pretty complicated medical determinations. Or an IMO can show an increase in the severity of your service-connected disabilities.
So, how did these help? The doctors who author these opinions are specialists. This is different than what you’re going to see when you go to a comp and pen exam. Those are sort of generalist VA practitioners. So, if it’s an orthopedic condition, service connection for an orthopedic condition, you might go to an orthopedist, not an MD or a nurse practitioner as you might for your comp and pen exams. Because they’re specialists, they might have a better understanding of your condition and provide a more adequate explanation of their severity or cause.
You know, we just want to note that veterans can also get their own medical opinions to help prove their claim. This might be helpful if the comp and pen exam, the C&P exam, in your opinion didn’t really capture the full essence of your disability, the full severity of your disability.
So, another thing to note is that IMOs are separate from VA. It’s possible that the opinion may be more objective because of that.
So, what’s the process when the board or VA goes about getting an IMO? So, if an independent medical opinion is conducted, the veteran and the representative are supposed to be notified. If there’s something that you disagree with, something you don’t like in the IMO, you have sixty days to respond with your own evidence or argument that either contests or, you know, in some instances agree with its finding.
So, if you’re going to get someone to help you provide medical evidence to support your claim, just make sure that the individual is qualified to do it. So, just like an IMO is a specialist – might be an orthopedist, might be specialists in herbicide exposure, something to that effect – you really should be getting medical evidence from someone that knows what they’re talking about. Because, if the VA finds the doctor or individual that provides that opinion not qualified, they might not rely or look to that evidence in deciding your claim. So, it’s really important that you make sure that you’re choosing the correct people to help you out.
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