When veterans receive a Compensation & Pension examination notice, they struggle to determine where to start preparing for it. In the end, they make the mistake of walking into the C & P Examination blind. Below are four tips to preparing for a C & P Exam:
- Determine the purpose of the examination. This may seem like common sense, but when veterans have multiple claims before the VA it can be harder than it looks. An easy way to determine would be to take the name of the examiner provided on the examination and look up their areas of practice on the internet. This can help narrow down what areas are going to be examined. Veterans can also call the VA Medical Center number provided on the notice and ask what the exam is being conducted for. That phone call can also provide information on future examinations so veterans can keep track of which conditions haven’t been examined so they can follow up with the VA and request an examination. This is an important step because it keeps a veteran from being blindsided when the VA schedules an examination for an issue that they were not anticipating and aren’t prepared for.
- Anticipate questions the examiner is going to ask. This may seem daunting but is actually one of the easiest steps. On the VA website is a list of disability benefit questionnaires (DBQs) that are sorted by topic such as PTSD, lumbar spine, knee elbow, etc. It is to every veteran’s benefit to print this form out and fill out a full list of symptoms. This not only gives veterans a roadmap of what questions will be asked and how the examination will go but also provides veterans the opportunity to document what their symptoms are and gather their thoughts before the examination.
- Gather any medical records you already have for that condition. If you have a doctor in the VA or outside of it who has already examined that condition, bring those medical records to the C & P exam. The C & P notice letter instructs veterans that the VA doctor already has every medical record, but bringing them can make their job easier by calling attention to a specific doctor who diagnosed your condition or a favorable statement from a nurse practitioner who noted a key symptom on a certain date. It also gives veterans a way to gauge if the doctor has reviewed their C File. It’s easy for a VA examiner to check the box stating that they reviewed a veteran’s C file, but it’s much harder when the VA examiner has a vet asking questions and pointing out supporting evidence in the record.
- Document your condition going into the examination. Did the veteran take pain medication prior to going into their spine, knee, elbow, or other joint examination? Was the veteran in a manic state prior to their PTSD exam? It is important to document the veteran’s condition on the day of the examination to contrast to their every day functioning. The examiners only get to see the veteran for a brief period of time. They do not live with the day to day struggles of the veteran’s condition, so it is important that the veteran documents what their condition is like on a daily basis before going in so they know what symptoms to bring up during the exam that they may not be exhibiting on that day.
Preparing for an examination is a small step that veterans can take to make sure they are successful in their claims down the road. Performing this initial preparation work can take a claim that is on the fence and make it a success.