What to Consider When Using a DBQ as Part of Your Disability Claim

For many veterans, the idea of reporting for a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam creates a high level of anxiety. Even though most veterans understand the exam is necessary to help examiners for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Blank Questionaire With a Blue Pen(VA) determine the current degree of impairment caused by their disability, it can still be a stressful appointment. Additionally, veterans can often wait a long time for the VA to schedule an appointment—sometimes 3 months to 2 years.

If they choose, veterans can have a medical evaluation performed by their own doctor and have that doctor fill out a disability benefits questionnaire (DBQ). This questionnaire is used during the evaluation and submitted to the VA where it is then used as part of the disability determination.

What Is a DBQ?

A DBQ is a downloadable questionnaire—a form that veterans can use as part of the disability evaluation process. This form enables a doctor to capture critical information to help define your impairment level due to your disability. The VA needs this information to accurately evaluate your claim for benefits. An advantage of a DBQ is that it can be filled out by your own personal physician if you’d rather not see a VA doctor for a C&P exam.

Most often, DBQs are used to rate your condition in your initial claim or evaluate how much your service-related condition has deteriorated if you’re filing for increased compensation. A DBQ is not often used to establish the service connection; however, it can be very valuable for claims processing because it provides important medical information and evidence that is relevant and applicable for effectively and swiftly establishing your impairment rating. 

When your doctor submits a fully completed claim, a DBQ can help ensure that the VA rating specialist has the exact information needed to start processing the claim, and very often the form can help speed up that process.

The Pros and Cons of Using a DBQ

The primary purpose of a DBQ is to determine the degree of your impairment; however, it often helps provide a more accurate and objective rating from the specialist. Because a VA C&P doctor is paid by or contracted through the VA, his relationship is with the VA—not you. And because of this, you may prefer to see your own doctor who you’re likely to have a long-standing, close relationship with and knows your condition. It’s possible that you’ll get a more objective and fair review of your condition from your own medical doctor. Even if the review isn’t favorable, you can be more assured that it is accurate.

There many reasons you may want to use a DBQ, and there are just as many not to use one. Here is a brief overview of some of the primary pros and cons of a DBQ:

Pros

  • Greater control. A DBQ allows you to have greater control of your claim. You can see your own physician, and you don’t have to count on a doctor whose primary relationship is with the VA. 
  • Doctor relationship. After years of seeing your personal physician, you’re likely to have a trusting relationship with him. He knows you, and he is likely to provide an honest, accurate picture of how your disability is creating limitations in your daily life.
  • Increased speed. Your doctor is likely to submit the report to the VA more quickly, and the questionnaire may speed up the claims process.

Cons

  • Not available for every condition. Especially for mental health conditions such as PTSD, DBQs aren’t available for all conditions.
  • No way for doctors to bill insurance. Your personal doctor won’t be able to bill an insurance company for a DBQ. Consequently, he may not agree to use one unless you pay him up front.
  • Not all DBQs match the rating criteria. If your doctor uses a DBQ, be sure he compares your limitations to the rating criteria for your illness or condition. Not all DBQs are a perfect match to the rating criteria.
  • No proof of speed. While many veterans report satisfaction in the time to process their claims, there is no statistical evidence that using a DBQ will accelerate the process.

If you have questions about whether or not to use your own physician and a DBQ as part of your evaluation of your disability claim, or you need help with your upcoming C&P exam, contact us at 402-933-5405. We’re happy to discuss your situation.

 

Sean D. Cuddigan
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska