VA DBQ: Disability Benefits Questionnaire Explained
Nick Briggs: Welcome to CCK Live. My name is Nicholas Briggs. I’m an accredited VA practitioner here at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick. And today I’m joined by fellow accredited agents, Michelle DeTore and Frank Padula. Today we’re going to be breaking down VA Disability Benefits Questionnaires.
First, what is a DBQ? DBQ is a downloadable form created for veterans’ use in the evaluation process for the disability benefits claims.
DBQs are intended to speed up the processing of the claims by having a single standardized process through which medical practitioners can provide evidence in support of a veteran’s claim. It’s designed to give a veteran more control over their disability claims process by allowing them an easier way that they can bring their own practitioners into the process.
Again, these forms were created by VA to answer specific questions about important aspects of their disability, including symptoms, severity, possible causes, and relationships to other disabilities. These are the exact sorts of questions that VA wants answers to because it aids them in both determining whether or not service connection is warranted and what the proper rating for the disability should be once service connection is granted. With that in mind, Frank, could you tell us a bit more about how DBQs work?
Frank Padula: Yes. First, it’s really important to stress that while veterans, they’re able to access these forms, they are not permitted to fill out these forms themselves. Instead, veterans have the option of visiting a private healthcare provider or even a VA healthcare provider who could complete the evaluation on their behalf. Again, it’s really important to know that veterans cannot fill out the DBQ form on their own.
But when having a private healthcare provider fill out the DBQ form, it’s also important for veterans to do the following. First, you can access the form online and download it. Second, you can bring that form to your provider and have your private doctor or even your healthcare provider complete that form on your behalf. Third, you want to review the findings of the form and save a copy for your own records as well. And then, fourth, you want to submit that form to VA in support of a claim or an appeal.
The forms, they’re streamlined and they use checkboxes and standardized language so that the disability evaluation can be made quickly and correctly. Specifically, the healthcare providers can simply check a box next to descriptions that most accurately depict the disability in question.
You can use the DBQ forms also provides veterans with an improved means to submit medical evidence to support their claims. When completing the forms, it’s important for veterans to just be honest about their symptoms in order to ensure that all documentation accurately reflects the level of impairment caused by the claimed disability.
Nick: Thanks for that, Frank. Now, Michelle, turning to you. Could you tell us a bit more about which specific conditions are covered by the different DBQs?
Michelle DeTore: Yes. One way or another, almost every condition is covered by a DBQ. So, right now there are about 70 different disability benefits questionnaires that you can find on VA’s website. There are ones that are condition-specific. Some of them are very specific to a certain condition. Like, there is a PTSD one, there is an arthritis one, there’s a prostate cancer one. Some of them are going to be more generic. There is an other mental disorders one, there are ones like heart conditions or kidney conditions, where it’s not for the specific condition but it’s the overall umbrella of heart issues or kidney issues and your condition will be followed there.
A lot of them will say for the doctor to check off what the actual condition is under the umbrella of the general heart exam one or the kidney one. It does break it down a little bit more granular as you go through it. But for the most part, if it’s not covered, if it’s not specific or covered under the umbrella of one of those other ones, what they’ll end up doing is giving you what we call a general medical examination, which is supposed to be kind of an umbrella to cover all the ones that aren’t specifically listed in there.
A good example is if you have generalized anxiety disorder. There could be a couple different disability benefits questionnaires, but you’re going to usually get the other mental health disorders questionnaire. There are a lot on there so when you are going to bring one to your doctor, you want to make sure that you’re using the correct one because you don’t want to give VA any opportunity to discredit what you’re giving because it’s not filled out for the correct conditions. So, that just something to be mindful of. If you’re not seeing your condition on there, then usually you want to default to the General Medical one.
There are some conditions not covered by DBQs. A lot of times its prisoner-of-war examinations. Sometimes you see Cold War injury residuals or initial examinations for PTSD.
When we say there’s no specific exam for Cold War residuals, it’s because they usually will send you to an examination for what that residual is. You’ll see that with a lot of residuals. They’re not going to say “Here are your traumatic brain injury residuals,” they’re going to say, “Your residuals are migraines. Here’s a migraine examination.” It’s because they want to be making sure that they’re using the correct criteria for that condition and that condition itself is ratable under its own diagnostic code, it has its own disability benefits questionnaire.
So, that’s kind of why you won’t see examinations really for residuals. It’s usually then goes condition-specific like diabetes; a common residual is peripheral neuropathy, and that has its own disability benefits questionnaire that is completed. A lot of times, just because you’re not seeing it on there doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. It’s just it gets done a little differently in some of the VA forms.
Nick: Yeah, exactly what Michelle mentioned. They’re going to be certain circumstances where there are these additional residuals. They have their own forms. They’re being considered, and oftentimes examiners will complete two, three, four sets of the DBQs all at the same time to make sure they’re addressing all of your symptoms. That’s why it’s important to just be upfront and report everything, that way they can use the appropriate forms as needed.
With that in mind, generally speaking, we’ve got a sense over the years of how frequently requested some of these DBQs are. They tend to be in line with how common some of the service-connected disabilities that many veterans experience.
So, for example, hearing loss and tinnitus is generally the most requested DBQ online as many veterans suffer acoustic trauma in service and have some form of hearing loss or tinnitus due to service. But some other common DBQs are for back disabilities, knee and lower leg disabilities, and then as Michelle mentioned, mental disorders and all of the different DBQs that fall under that umbrella.
So, with that in mind, it’s important to know where you can find these DBQ forms because it hasn’t always been the easiest to locate them. Unfortunately, VA provided them online with their own public-facing website for a long time, but around the time that the COVID-19 pandemic started and without prior notice, VA abruptly removed all public-facing versions of DBQs from its website. So, at that point, veterans lost that resource. They were no longer able to just pull them whenever they wanted and there is no guarantee that if they looked online, they would get the correct form, all because the public-facing websites were shut down.
Luckily, this has changed as a result of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. As a result of that Act, the forms are now available again on VA’s website. Again, this is important because making these forms publicly available and accessible gives veterans more insight into the examination portion of their claims and gives them a means through which they can get their private providers to provide VA with the information they need to decide their claims.
Obviously, VA provides these forms themselves on their website, but Frank, are there any other places that veterans might be able to find these forms?
Frank: Yes. As Nick previously mentioned, VA did remove these forms in the past. They did this because VA believed it has sufficiently expanded its own capacity to conduct these VA examinations. But CCK has and will continue to provide the DBQ forms for veterans to access on our own website and the link to those can be found in this video.
Nick: Great. Thanks for that, Frank. We’ve covered most of the basics of DBQ forms and how they work and what veterans should do and not do when they’re trying to get them completed. Do either of you have any additional closing thoughts or remarks that you’d like to make, reminders, things like that?
Frank: I think it’s important to ensure that the whole form is filled out correctly, meaning some personal identifying details, signatures, and dates. There are a couple of different spots for those so I would just make sure to take a look at those. Again, make sure that they’re all filled out correctly before you submit it to VA.
Michelle: I love to use these two help counter VA examinations, so I always tell veterans that I’m working with that, you know, if you can have your specialist fill it out. If it’s a back condition, have your orthopedic doctor fill it out. If it is your psych condition, have your psychiatric treating doctor, because it’s a lot easier to counter sometimes showing that a specialist completed this. And it’s also really nice if they’ve been treating you for a while to say, well, you saw this examiner for 30 minutes and this doctor is a specialist in their field and has been treating you for X amount of years. So, that’s usually some advice that I do give to clients that we work with.
Nick: Great. Thank you both. One final reminder, like we mentioned up top, these forms are meant to be filled out by medical providers. Although the veteran is ultimately going to be providing a lot of the information themselves as they answer their medical provider’s questions, these are meant to be filled out by doctors so that VA can then weigh the evidence against their own VA examinations. That’s something to keep in mind and that’s why it’s also extra important to do, like Frank mentioned, and make sure that the doctor is clearly signing the forms, providing their name, providing any identifying information that you need. That way, VA can rely on it without needing to seek clarification.
With all that in mind, and like Frank mentioned again, we provide all of these DBQs on our website. We would like to thank you for joining us, and be sure to subscribe to our channel and check out our other videos.
Share this Post