A letter from your doctor to the VA in support of your claim can do wonders in regards to moving your case along. While more advanced cases may require an expert medical opinion from a doctor who has experience in dealing with the VA, for less complicated claims, a correctly worded letter from your doctor may be what pushes your claim past the finish line.
As most doctors aren’t familiar with what the VA is looking for, this is a short guide for you to download and/or print out and show your doctor, assuming he or she is willing to write a letter for you.
Disclaimer: The content of these letters is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Downloading these letters does not guarantee any result nor does it create an attorney-client relationship between you and Hill and Ponton, PA. This page is provided “as is” and does not represent any outcome or result. Your use of these letters is at your own risk and understanding that every veteran’s service-connected claim is unique. Neither Hill and Ponton, PA, nor anyone acting on their behalf, will be liable under any circumstances.
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10 Tips for Doctors Writing Letters to the VA
- Identify the veteran and the purpose of your letter of support.
Example: “I am writing on behalf of veteran John Smith, who served in the U.S. Navy from April 1992 to April 1996. Mr. Smith suffers from Parkinson’s Disease.”
- Identify yourself, including your credentials and your experience. Be sure to note if you are affiliated with the VA.
Example: “I am a board-certified neurologist and am currently a resident at Florida Hospital Orlando, with 14 years experience treating neurological disorders, including many patients with Parkinson’s Disease”
- Explain your clinical relationship with the veteran.
Example: “Mr. Smith was referred to me in June 2012 for his Parkinson’s Disease, and has been under my care since that time. We have met approximately once a month during this time period.
- State the veteran’s diagnosis. If this is a mental health diagnosis, use DSM-V diagnostic codes and format. Be sure to note the veteran’s GAF or WHODAS score (the VA and the DSM-5 now recommends WHODAS, though GAF still seems to be commonly used.)
- If the veteran has a score that fluctuates, explain the reasons for the fluctuation and provide a range. GAF and WHODAS scores are very important to the VA who rate the severity of the veteran’s mental health condition. Generally, a GAF score of over 50 is seen as minimally disabling. If using the WHODAS, use the “complex” method that breaks down the deficit by domain.
- Describe the veteran’s current symptoms in detail (using the DSM-V criteria for mental illness.) It is important to be thorough here. Specifically state how long the veteran has been experiencing the symptoms and at what severity. Please note how the symptoms are related to your diagnosis (e.g. “Mr. Smith’s sleep disturbances are secondary to his Parkinson’s Disease.”)
- If possible explain how those symptoms are consistent with the veteran’s diagnosis. Please keep in mind any side effects of medication that may be disabling
Example: “Mr. Smith’s diarrhea, while not caused directly by his Parkinson’s, is secondary to the Sinemet he takes for his Parkinson’s symptoms.”
- Describe the effect that the veteran’s symptoms have on the veteran’s function and daily life. Focus on social and occupational impairments if possible. Review the veteran’s entire list of symptoms and side effects, and detail how they affect his or her ability to function.
Example: “Mr. Smith’s tremors are so severe that they affect his ability to hold a pencil, type on a computer, or even to feed himself.”
Keep in mind, this may be the most important section of the entire letter, so please spend some time detailing the level of impairment.
- If the veteran’s disability is NOT currently service-connected, explain the link or “nexus” between the veteran’s symptoms and the in-service event or exposure that caused or exacerbated the veteran’s disability. Remember that the burden of proof is whether there is at least a 50/50 chance that the event or exposure caused or aggravated the disability. If you are certain, state that you have a high degree of certainty that the disability was caused or aggravated.
- Note where you acquired the information you used to make your decision (i.e. the veteran’s C-file, medical records, clinical interview, etc.). Another extremely effective tool is to also include references to medical and academic literature which support your opinion of the causal link.
When closing your letter, try to restate your opinion clearly being sure to include language stating what evidence you’ve reviewed in order to make your decision. Finally, the last thing to do is sign the letter. Be sure to put your credentials at the bottom with your signature to avoid any confusion.
Remember that this letter may change the veteran’s life in a very real way. It can be time-consuming and difficult, but this letter may mean the world to your patient.
Doctor’s Letter Templates for VA Disability
Looking to get started with having your Doctor write a letter regarding your condition and its relation to military service? Check out our Free template by clicking on the button here!
PTSD Letter Sample
Need a starting point for a letter regarding your PTSD claim? Check out our free template here.
VA Unemployability Letter Sample
VA Competency Letter
VA Convalescence Letter
Legal Disclaimer (Because every VA claim is different)
These letters are provided as is. We are not responsible for any result or action following the use of these letters on a real claim. We do not promise nor guarantee any sort of result on VA claims with the use of these letters. These letters are only being shared to hopefully provide veterans with a better idea of what the VA is looking for and what may be able to help their claim move along. These letters are meant for educational purposes.
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