So you’ve filed your VA disability claim for a mental health issue. Just a short 10 months later, the Department of Veterans Affairs scheduled you for a Compensation and Pension examination (C&P exam). You’ve never done anything like this before, and you have no idea what to expect.
A C&P exam is an important part of the VA claims process. During the exam, the examiner will ask you questions about your mental health condition and how it affects your daily life. This helps the VA properly rate your condition, so you can receive the right amount of VA disability compensation. Compensation and pension exams typically take place at a VA medical center.
These tips will help you better prepare for your C&P exam.
DO show up
Hopefully, you will receive written notice of the exam after sending your claim for veterans benefits. Hopefully, you receive this notice sometime before the examination is due to take place. There is a chance you do not receive the notice or receive it too late. If you miss the examination for any reason, submit a letter to the VA explaining the situation. If you miss an exam, it will likely negatively impact your claim for disability benefits, so be sure to attend the appointment!
Before you even go to the examination, you have some homework to do. You need to make a list of ALL your symptoms, the frequency of them, and how they affect your life.
One way to get this list is to keep a small notebook on hand or a notepad on your phone. Use this to take notes when you think of or experience a symptom. This way, you remember to tell the VA examiner about all of your symptoms.
Additionally, have a spouse, friend, or family member keep track of what they observe. I know, I know, the last thing you want is your spouse keeping track of every time you lose your temper. Her notes, however, can be very helpful to your claim. Even better, bring this person with you to your C&P examination. They can discuss your symptoms from their angle. Afterward, they can help you remember there were any inconsistencies in the examiner’s report.
DON’T dress in your Sunday best
If you aren’t normally dressed up, showered, and shaved daily, then don’t show up to your examination this way. Show up the way you look on any given day. An examiner’s impression of you can have an outcome on his report (and remember, their report affects the VA’s rating decision).
If you tell the VA doctor that you have trouble getting motivated to take a shower or shave, but you look like you’re headed to a job interview, this may give the doctor the impression that you are exaggerating your symptoms. If you cannot work because of PTSD, do not make it look otherwise.
DON’T downplay your symptoms.
Remember what you’re there for! When someone asks you “How are you today?”, we often automatically respond “good, and you?” But you’re not “good.” You’re suffering from a disability. This is a disability evaluation, so you want to answer honestly.
You would be surprised at how many C&P exams and medical records we’ve read where the veteran is asked about a disability, and he or she responds with “I’m fine,” or “I’m ok.” We know that when you were in the military, you were expected to suck it up and move on, and any complaints about pain or illness were met with ridicule. We get it, but you’re not in the service anymore, and your life depends on you getting help with your medical condition.
So, speak up! This is another reason why we suggest bringing another or family member with you.
DON’T exaggerate your symptoms
We’ve seen several C&P exams where the examiner accuses the veteran of “malingering,” or exaggerating his or her symptoms. Often, this is NOT the case. However, if an examiner BELIEVES you are malingering, it may affect the entire report. Doctors use exams, such as the MMPI, on veterans who they think are malingering. This will obviously negatively affect your claim.
DO bring someone
As we’ve already mentioned, it’s a good idea to bring someone else along with you, especially your spouse. Again, veterans tend to understate their symptoms. Everyone does it. This is how a C&P exam could go if your spouse is present during the exam:
Examiner: “Have you been having any trouble sleeping?”
Husband/Wife: “Sometimes? SOMETIMES?! What about when you go two nights without sleeping at all, and go through $20 worth of coffee and I can’t even trust you to drive the children around? Or when you fall asleep for 19 hours straight?! What about….” continues for 20 minutes.
There is an aspect to a mental illness called “insight.” When you’re suffering from a mental disorder, it is much more difficult to clearly see how your illness affects you. This is because your brain is just trying to cope. However, your friends and family can clearly see how your symptoms are negatively affecting your everyday life.
We have spoken to family members of veterans, and they tell us in great detail how badly their veteran’s symptoms are affecting their life, and they can’t understand how their veterans disability claim was denied. Then we read the C&P examination notes, and none of what the family member described was in there!
DON’T be a lawyer
Your C&P exam is for you to describe your symptoms and limitations to the examiner. That’s it. The last thing you should be doing during this is discussing VA ratings and legal aspects of your case. Do not cite, word for word, the VA disability rating criteria and how your symptoms fulfill it.
Do not argue with the VA examiner. At best, they will become annoyed with you, as they are trying to get through the exam, and at worst, they will think that you’re malingering or trying to scam money. Either way, this will likely lead to a bad report.
Know that a C&P examiner is NOT going to make a decision regarding your claim. They are supposed to be unbiased examiners. The examiner’s job is just to pass on facts to the regional office. There, the adjudicators use this information to decide your claim.
We are sorry that this post was not as useful for you!
Help us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?