Most will argue that your claims file is the single most important component in the battle for veteran’s disability compensation. A lot of veterans are unaware that such a file exists. What does it contain? How do you obtain a copy? What can you expect upon when reviewing your C-file? How will the claims file help you? My objective is to answer these questions, explain the importance and leave you with a better understanding of your claims file.
What is your claims file exactly? A claims file, or more simply, C-file, contains everything about your claim. It should have all information on every claim that you have filed upon leaving the service. I like to think of it as the lifeline for your claim. Every milestone, grant or denial, records – medical and non-medical live in your C-file. It also may contain buddy statements, compensation and pension exams, and even miscellaneous information such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and employment records, and personnel records. Additionally, your C-file may contain any internal VA memos and important service records – essentially everything and anything that has been submitted or anything that is in relation to your claim.
On to the next question: how can you obtain a copy of your C-file? The answer is elementary. You simply ask for it. It is as easy as sending a letter to the VA requesting your C-file. Now, we all know the VA’s “hurry up and wait” game. The time frame to receive a response depends on the Regional Office. It may take up to a year to get to you. Other times, you may have your C-file in your hands within months.
Here are some things that you can expect upon reviewing your claims file:
- The size your claims file also varies from veteran to veteran. Yours may be 1,000 pages while another may be 200 pages. This has nothing to do with the merit of your claim.
- Often times there will be duplicated documents, blank pages, and sometimes documents that are not yours.
- There is no apparent order to the way the C-file is formatted. Ideally, you would expect for the documents to be in the order it was received or chronological order.
- You may notice that there are documents or vital pieces of evidence that are missing.
The VA will use your C-file in deciding your claim. It is often based on what is and what is not in your file. This is a very important reason as to why your C-file can guide you to your success. An attorney can review your C-file and determine how to proceed with your claim. You may find that the evidence that is shown in your C-file is not enough to prove your claim. An attorney can easily determine if more medical evidence is needed or a possible clear and unmistakable error in a previous decision. Your C-file can also show evidence that may have been overlooked. Obtaining your C-file and knowing what to look for is a great start for any veteran fighting for their compensation.
Anything that has to do with the VA is confusing and frustrating, especially when it comes to fighting for your disability compensation. Trying to understand the process and why you were denied your benefits is enough to make any deserving veteran give up. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Understanding your claims file is the just the beginning. If you are working on your claim alone or with representation, your claims file will set up the path and help you decided what needs to be done next. Remember, the truth lies within the evidence.
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