VA's Duty to Assist

The Veterans Claims Assistance Act of 2000 (VCAA) sets forth VA’s Duty to Assist VA claimants to establish service connection for their disabilities. Congress required VA to assist VA claimants (veterans) by notifying them of information necessary to prove the claim and by helping veterans obtain evidence and information necessary to prove their claims.

The duty to notify veterans includes the duty to notify of information needed to complete an application, any lay or medical evidence needed to substantiate the claim, and any evidence veteran must provide and the evidence VA will attempt to obtain.

The duty to assist in gathering evidence and information needed to prove the claim includes a duty to “make reasonable efforts to assist a claimant in obtaining evidence necessary to substantiate” the claim. 38 U.S.C.S. § 5103. It also includes the duty to make reasonable efforts to obtain relevant records, including private records, veteran identifies and authorizes VA to obtain. It includes the duty to obtain veterans’ service medical records, military records, VA treatment records and any other relevant records available to VA. It also includes a duty to provide a medical examination or obtain a medical opinion when necessary to make a decision on the claim.