Any doctor appointment can be stressful. But reporting for a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam as part of the evaluation process to receive disability benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can be especially so. It is actually the step in the claims process that creates the highest level of anxiety in veterans. Knowing what to expect and relying on some useful tips can help make the exam go more smoothly and move you closer to winning your claim.
What is a C&P Exam?
A C&P exam is like a doctor appointment that allows the VA doctor to evaluate your physical or psychological condition and determine your level of impairment caused by your disability. His report is used by the VA to help approve or deny a disability claim. You don’t receive treatment or medication at this appointment; rather, the doctor will likely examine you, ask you questions, order lab work, and do standard tests to assess your situation. If you’re suffering from a psychological disorder or condition, the doctor may focus on how the stress of that condition affects your life, and you’ll have the opportunity to discuss your symptoms and what you’re experiencing. If you’re suffering from a physical illness or injury, the doctor may examine you specifically for that injury or illness and conduct other medical tests to help in his evaluation.
After the exam, the doctor will prepare a report that may include the following information:
- Your medical history
- A discussion of your current symptoms
- An assessment of the severity of your symptoms
- A professional opinion as to whether your disability is service related
The doctor sends the report to the VA Regional Office. This is where your claim is processed. It’s important to note that it’s the Regional Office that makes the determination about your disability eligibility and the percentage rating, not the doctor. While the C&P exam is a critical factor in the decision making process, the VA bases its decision on all evidence submitted for a claim. The exam is not the only piece of data taken into account.
Tips for Your C&P Appointment
During your C&P exam, you will likely meet with a medical or mental health professional to discuss your illness, injury, or psychological disorder. It’s also likely that the doctor will perform a physical exam. It’s important to know your objective when reporting for the exam—to communicate your situation as precisely and accurately as you can, being as complete as possible.
You probably won’t have a great deal of time to explain your case, so it’s critical that you come prepared for this appointment. It’s your opportunity to present your situation, in detail, and all that you’ve been experiencing. Remember that the person seeing you needs to understand how your injury or illness affects your daily life, your routines, your work, and your relationships.
Here are some tips to help your appointment go smoothly and promote a more favorable outcome for your claim:
- Be prepared to answer. When your doctor asks “How are you?,” people are often programmed to answer “Okay” or “Fine.” This isn’t the time to make this claim. If you were fine, you would not be seeking disability compensation. Open up to the doctor and tell him the truth, even if it’s painful. If you don’t tell the doctor the truth, he won’t have correct information in his report, and the Regional Office will never know about it. Be prepared to give dates and details, discuss symptoms and treatment you’ve received, and how your disability is impacting your work ,home life, and relationships.
- Prepare to be judged. It’s the doctor’s job to judge you and your condition. You’re there to be assessed fairly and accurately. Consider that you want to leave a credible impression: a veteran faced with a disability who is doing the best he can.
- Know the purpose of the exam. Is the exam to establish service connection? If so you should be able to talk about the in-service event you think caused your condition. You should know what body system is being examined.You can call the number on the notice to find out. Most importantly you should review the Disability Benefits Questionnaire to find out how the condition you are being examined for is evaluated.
- Stick to the facts. The doctor is meeting with you to get facts that will help him determine the severity of your impairment. Don’t tell the doctor a long, rambling story of how badly you’ve been treated or why you’re upset. Stick to concise facts about your condition and be prepared to describe all the symptoms related to your condidtion.
- Be honest. It may seem obvious, but it’s important that you don’t enhance, embellish, or lie about your condition. If you’re caught in a lie, your claim will likely be denied.
- Be punctual. Being on time or even a bit early can help make you seem responsible and concerned about the outcome of the appointment. Most importantly, don’t miss an exam. If you do, it’s often cited as a reason for a claim denial. Also, don’t show up late. This may seem disrespectful to the doctor and does nothing to help your claim.
At Cuddigan Law, we understand how critical it is for veterans to get disability benefits. That’s why we provide free information to help veterans with their claims. Download our free book, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims, or call us today at 402-933-5405 to ask us a question about your disability case.