VA Suspends In-Person C&P Exams, Offers Alternatives

In an email to Veterans on Monday, April 6th, the VA announced new changes to support social distancing activities designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.  One major issue facing Veterans with disabilities is how to complete Compensation and Pension (C&P) examination while attempting to follow stay-at-home orders.

The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) announced that they will aim to complete as many examinations as possible by using virtual communication options and avoiding face-to-face visits. C&P exams are designed to be forensic examinations that provide the VBA with missing information that may help their staff to make a decision about a Veteran’s disability status.  These examinations usually include having a physician follow Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) to report standardized responses and conditions.

C&P exams have traditionally been conducted via in-person appointments, with the Veteran physically in a medical provider’s office.  As of April 2nd, 2020, the VA has suspended in-person examinations in order to achieve two objectives:

  • Encourage social distancing among its vulnerable population
  • Prioritize its resources to support critical care and emergency requirements

How to Get a C&P Exam Now

The two remaining methods of meeting a C&P requirement in support of your VA disability claim are ACE exams and Tele-C&P exams. Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE) examinations take place when a medical provider is able to use the evidence on record to determine if they can complete a DBQ without an in-person exam.  While the clinician may still need to call the Veteran to get clarifying information, there is no need for the Veteran to attend an in-person examination.

The other option is to utilize a tele-C&P examination, which the VA has determined to be suitable for some of the DBQs, such as mental health evaluations. Tele-C&P exams can be performed via videoconference to provide visual communication between the Veteran and the medical provider without requiring in-person contact.

It is not yet clear how the VA intends to continue with C&P exams for conditions that require person-to-person contact such as evaluating rotation injuries and other musculoskeletal ailments. The VA may simply put all these on hold and wait until conditions have improved with respect to social distancing. While this may cause delays in processing your disability claim, the VA has begun taking steps to be lenient with deadlines and requirements for VA disability appeals.

Can I Still Provide Private Medical Records?

Yes! The VA is still collecting and evaluating private medical records in support of your VA disability appeal. The VA will consider private treatment records, and they can be invaluable in supporting your claim as your private physician may have a longer history with you and have seen the full extent of your injuries.

To submit private medical records:

  • The Veteran or private treatment provider can send them directly to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Claims Intake Center, P.O. Box 4444, Janesville, WI., 53547-4444 or submit them to VA regional office.
  • The Veteran can submit signed copies of VA Form 21-4142 and VA Form 21-4142a and the VA will request your private medical records on your behalf. In most cases, you must complete and submit both of these documents.
  • The Veteran can also upload Private treatment records as part of an on-line claim submission at: https://www.va.gov/disability/how-to-file-claim/