In almost any case where a veteran has a disability that may be related to active service, the VA will schedule an examination for the veteran to visit with one of its doctors. Generally, these examinations are performed at VA facilities, but it has become more common in recent years to outsource these examinations to private healthcare facilities.
Why the VA Requires C&P Examinations
There are many, many reasons why the VA schedules these examinations. First, the VA may determine that it needs medical evidence to tie a particular disability to the veteran’s service. In these cases, the examiner will offer an opinion on whether it is “at least as likely as not” that the veteran’s claimed condition is somehow related to service. For instance, if a veteran is asking for service connected to a traumatic brain injury, the VA doctor may be asked to opine on whether the veteran’s current traumatic brain injury is related to an incident in which he was struck in the head while in service.
In other cases, the VA may want to evaluate the severity of a current injury. The VA’s disability rating schedule (what the agency uses to assign disability ratings) is generally based on factors such as the severity, frequency, and duration of an injury’s symptoms. A VA examiner may be able use these ratings to offer an opinion on just how severe the symptoms of an injury are.
Sometimes, though, the VA simply wants to reevaluate an already service-connected injury just to see if the injury has gotten better or worse since the last time the veteran was evaluated, and this may lead to an increase or decrease in the veteran’s disability rating.
The Most Important Factor
The C&P examination is, in an awful lot of cases, the single most important piece of evidence in a veteran’s file. I can promise you that the person deciding your case, whether it is a rater at the regional office or a judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, will look closely at the C&P examination, or examinations, in your file before deciding your case. So, if a VA examiner issues an opinion that is not favorable to your case, you are facing an uphill battle.
But Not Necessarily the Final Word
That is not to say that benefits cannot be awarded in cases where the file contains a VA examination that is negative to the veteran’s case. Many times a veteran’s initial claim for benefits is denied due to a negative examination, but the veteran is still able to obtain benefits on appeal.
How a Veterans Disability Lawyer Can Help if Your VA Exam was Unfavorable to Your Case
When I get involved in a case where the veteran has already received an unfavorable examination, I ask myself whether there is something wrong with the examination report. Did the examiner overlook a crucial piece of evidence in the file or get something wrong factually? Are there other treatment records or private medical opinions that paint a different picture of the veteran’s disability? Did the examiner thoroughly explain his conclusion? If there is some flaw with the VA’s examination, it must provide you with a new examination.
It is critically important that any examination that the VA provides you is factually accurate and meets the minimum standards to constitute a legally adequate opinion. Without a factually accurate, legally sufficient opinion, the VA adjudicator may not have enough information to grant your claim.
If your C&P examination did not fully reflect the extent of your disability and you need assistance showing it was incomplete or factually inaccurate, please contact us. Our hope is that each deserving veteran receives his or her VA benefits — and certainly is not denied benefits on the basis of an examiner’s mistakes or omissions.