Any veteran who applies for disability benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will be required to undergo a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam. This routine exam allows the VA to assess your medical condition and send a report to the VA Regional Office where you submitted your claim. If you’re seeking benefits for a service-connected eye injury or disease, it’s important that you understand the goals of the exam and the types of tests the eye doctor will perform. It’s also helpful to have experienced VA disability attorneys help with your claim to increase your chances of obtaining fair compensation.
Goals of Your Compensation & Pension Exam
In general, a veteran should take the C&P exam with two goals in mind:
- The first goal is to ensure that your doctor confirms that your eye injury, disease, condition, or limitation is service-connected, or he establishes that your symptoms prove you are visually disabled in some way or to some degree.
- The second goal is to determine where and how your claim lacks evidence to prove your disability. This “evidentiary gap” is the difference between what’s been written in your medical record and how the VA sees, interprets, and/or evaluates it.
Doctors will often let you know what’s missing in your file or medical report by where they place most of their focus. The goal is not to offer limitless information about your disability during the exam; rather, by keeping your answers brief, you force the doctor to dig into your file and really examine the evidence.
Tests Used for the Vision C&P Exam
Veterans can receive a VA rating for a variety of visual impairments, including loss of sight in one or both eyes, loss of peripheral vision, and loss of light perception; blurry vision; double vision; and loss of eyelids, eyelashes, or eyebrows. However, a Compensation & Pension exam must be performed first to determine the extent of the disability before it can receive a rating. The C&P exam for visual impairment can only be conducted by an ophthalmologist or optometrist who will use the following measurements when conducting the exam and the results:
Central Visual Acuity/Function
This test measures a veteran’s visual sharpness—how you see details of objects, letters, and/or symbols from certain distances. Whenever you hear someone mention 20/20 vision, this is a reference to visual acuity. Although testing for visual acuity is a common method eye doctors use to assess vision, they don’t believe it’s the most accurate for determining visual function.
It’s possible that you’ve had a visual acuity test if, during an eye exam, you’ve ever sat in a darkened room and read black letters on a white screen. This is called the Snellen test, and doctors use it to establish the smallest letter you’re capable of reading. Or you may have been given the Random E test, which has you identify the direction the “feet” of the E are pointing.
This type of test measures how far you can see in all directions when staring at a fixed object and without moving your eyes. Your optometrist can determine how much vision you have in each eye and if you’ve lost any vision. A field vision test can also establish if you have scotoma or blind spots, where they are, and how they’re impacting your vision. Additionally, the eye doctor will use the visual field test to measure the range your eyes can see—how far left, right, up, and down without moving your eyes and the sensitivity of your vision in different parts of your field of vision.
The two most common types of visual field tests are:
- The Amsler grid. A pattern of straight lines creates perfect squares, and you look at a dot in the middle of the grid and tell the doctor if any of the lines are broken, wavy, or blurry.
- The confrontational visual field. For this test, you look straight ahead at the doctor who sits facing you a few feet away, holding his arms out to the sides. When the doctor begins to move a hand inward, you signal him when you first see the hand come into your field of vision.
This type of test measures restricted or irregular eye movement that can be a result of muscle weakness or other optical conditions. The doctor will ask you to follow an object with your eyes while keeping your head perfectly still. This test can show the doctor if there is any uncontrolled shaking in your eyes—vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. It can also show if there is any misalignment in your eyes if one or both of your eyes is turned down, up, out, or in. The muscle function test can help determine other types of eye conditions, such as Duane’s retraction syndrome (DRS) and diplopia.
Tips for Your Compensation & Pension Exam
No matter what kind of eye injury or visual problem you have, you’ll be required to have a Compensation & Penson exam before your condition can be service-connected, and you can receive disability benefits. Here are some tips to keep in mind about the exam:
- Because your Compensation & Pension eye exam can only be performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, it’s important to notify the VA right away if you’re choosing to have this exam performed by some other type of doctor. It is likely that the VA will not recognize the results of your exam.
- Be sure to bring a list of all your vision symptoms and how they impact your life. These notes can be extremely helpful during the C&P exam. For example, if you’re no longer able to see well enough to drive, be sure to provide this important evidence to the doctor.
Call Cuddigan Law for Service-Connected Eye Conditions
If you suffer from a service-connected eye injury or condition, you may qualify for disability benefits. Let our experienced VA disability attorneys assist you in determining if you’re eligible. Our VA disability attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we will help you document your eye injury or eye disorder and work with your treating medical providers to describe the full extent of your limitations. We know exactly how much these disability benefits mean to you. If we accept your case, we will take all steps within the law to help you get them. If an eye injury you received during military service is making it impossible for you to work, contact Cuddigan Law to speak with an intake specialist for free.