Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect any veteran. For decades it was assumed that only veterans who see combat suffer from PTSD. But, today, the VA recognizes that anyone who serves in a military conflict could experience enough stress to trigger the onset of PTSD symptoms. When PTSD impacts a veteran’s ability to work or participate in daily life, the veteran may be eligible for VA disability benefits.
But there’s a complication. PTSD is an invisible illness. It’s much easier for the VA to award benefits to someone with obvious physical disabilities. Applying for VA disability benefits for PTSD requires more proof. Most applicants will be asked to complete a VA Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam for PTSD.
What Is the C&P Exam?
You may be asked to do the C&P exam even if an outside doctor or VA physician has already given you a PTSD diagnosis. The purpose is not to treat you for the illness. The C&P exam is intended only to determine your eligibility for disability benefits.
The examiner is there to evaluate:
- Whether your experience merits a PTSD diagnosis
- If your PTSD is service connected
- How severely PTSD affects your ability to function daily
The C&P exam is administered by a VA-approved psychologist, psychiatrist or other professional. The screening will involve an in-person examination, an interview, some questionnaires, and a review of all documentation that you provide. Once the review is complete, there will be a decision made and sent to the VA disability claims representative.
How Do I Know If I Have to Take the VA C&P Exam for PTSD?
Your local VA office will contact you if you need to schedule a C&P evaluation. They may send a letter or call you to arrange the date, time, and location of the exam. It’s important to make sure that the VA has your correct address, telephone number, and e-mail information so the request arrives in a timely manner.
How Do I Get Started?
Applying for disability benefits can often feel overwhelming for veterans with PTSD, but there help available from experienced lawyers such as the ones at Berry Law Firm.
Here’s what you need to do to apply:
- Complete the Veterans Application for Compensation and/or Benefits (VA Form 21-526). You can fill out the form online or mail it to your local VA regional office.
- Wait for notification to schedule your C&P exam for PTSD.
- Arrive 15 minutes early on the day of the exam to avoid any mix-ups.
- Bring a witness (a friend, family member or other trusted adult) who can help you remember important facts. It’s easy to forget information during the process.
- Bring all the documentation you need to support your claim for benefits, even if you already submitted them. This includes all medical records, tests and supporting statements from outsiders.
- Look here to get a general idea of what the reviewer’s report (called a DBQ) will look like. This is sent to the VA disability rating representative to determine your rating and eligibility for benefits.
Tips for the VA Compensation & Benefits Exam
Thousands of veterans submit to C&P exams every year. Examiners may be working under strict time constraints when conducting exams to reduce the backlog of cases. That is why it’s essential to do everything you can to make the C&P exam go smoothly.
- Be truthful. Report all your PTSD symptoms to the examiner, even the ones that make you uncomfortable or embarrassed. Every piece of information could make the difference between a favorable result and a denial.
- Don’t exaggerate. The C&P examiner is there to assess the severity of your diagnosis. If you overdo it, you may end up with an entirely different psychiatric diagnosis.
- Be yourself. You don’t need to dress up for your exam. Wear what makes you comfortable.
- Answer only what the doctor asks. It’s easy to talk too much under stress. Having a friend nearby may calm your nerves so you focus on simple, informative answers.
- Don’t try to be a lawyer. You just want the PTSD claims exam to be done accurately. If you disagree with the conclusion, then contact a VA benefits attorney for help.
Frequently Asked Questions About the C&P Exam for PTSD
Q: Why does the C&P exam matter so much?
A: The VA requests a C&P exam for PTSD when it finds gaps in your disability benefits claim application. An examiner’s report will likely carry more weight than your own doctor’s report, so you want the C&P results to be favorable, ensuring the best disability rating.
Q: My examiner wasn’t thorough and seemed biased. What can I do?
A: Wait to get your disability rating. If you get a favorable report and a fair disability rating, you don’t need to worry about it. However, you do have options to challenge the decision. It’s possible to request a new exam or ask for an explanation for the reviewer’s decision. You can contact a C&P exam supervisor or VA patient advocate at your closest medical facility to voice your concerns. A written statement is best.
Q: Can the C&P examiner tell me the status of my benefits claim?
A: No. The examiner’s job is to provide additional information to the claims processor handling your case. The C&P exam results are added to your file as just an additional piece of information to use in determining your rating.
Q: The C&P examiner says I don’t have service-connected PTSD. What now?
A: If the examiner denies your claim, you can submit an Independent Medical Exam (IME) from a private physician. The doctor could also submit a Residual Functioning Capacity Form (RFC) to support why you should qualify for disability benefits. Reports from friends, or “buddy statements,” are also good ways to support a claim.
Q: Do I need a veterans benefits attorney?
A: If you have PTSD and have been denied benefits or given a low rating, an experienced VA disability benefits attorney can help. There is an extensive appeals process that you can use to plead your case, and a lawyer can be your best advocate to fight for fair compensation.
Many members of the legal team at the Berry Law Firm are military veterans and have extensive knowledge of PTSD, disability benefits, and the challenges that veterans face to get the right rating. To learn how we can help you, contact us online or call us today at (888) 883-2483 for a free consultation.