One of the things a veteran must show in order to win a claim for disability benefits is that they currently suffer from a disability. In order to do so, the veteran must submit “competent” evidence to the VA. This means that the veteran cannot simply say “I have a knee condition” and present no further evidence. In fact, because of the medical issues involved with a claim for benefits, this really means that the veteran must submit medical evidence to the VA. The VA calls this “competent medical evidence” which is defined as:
“Evidence provided by a person who is qualified through education, training, or experience to offer medical diagnoses, statements, or opinions. Competent medical evidence may also include statements conveying sound medical principles found in medical treatises. It would also include statements contained in authoritative writings such as medical and scientific articles and research reports or analyses.”
Examples of what qualifies as competent medical evidence include: private medical records of recent treatment or examinations, letters or written statements from doctors, and, if recently discharged, service medical records. In almost all cases, competent medical evidence will require that a veteran have a diagnosis from a medical professional or someone who has specialized knowledge giving them the authority to make a diagnosis. For example, a veteran who has no medical expertise cannot diagnosis himself with diabetes. However, if the veteran is suffering from a condition that is obvious (for example, varicose veins) they can use observations from people that are not medical professionals.
It is important to note that the VA’s duty to assist a veteran comes into play here, and may require the VA to provide a medical exam for the veteran. The VA can only refuse to provide a veteran with a medical exam if; the disability claimed by the veteran is clearly false, or if the VA feels that there are already records on file that relate to the veteran’s claimed disability. If a VA doctor does not find that a current disability exists, the veteran may still submit an opinion from their personal doctor that says the veteran is suffering from a current disability. Veterans should keep in mind that although they must have competent medical evidence to ultimately win their case, they do not have to provide competent medical evidence in order to trigger the VA’s duty to assist. This means that a veteran can use statements from family and friends to show that they are suffering from continuous or repetitive symptoms of a disability instead of having to use a medical professional’s opinion.