Once we begin representing a new client, we immediately request for a copy of their Claims File (C-File) from the VA. This seems like a simple process which should take minimal time, though a C-File is requested from the local regional office which corresponds with the veteran. Each regional office takes varying amounts of time to comply with giving a veteran their C-File. Some regional offices can take a few months whereas others can take up to a year to fulfill the request for a C-File. Even if you are unrepresented, you have every right to request your C-File from your regional office. All you have to do is correspond with your regional office and ask for a copy of your C-File. Though it may take a while to receive your C-File, it is worth the wait because the C File contains vital information on your claim(s).
Your C File is so important because it shows the history and road map for your claim(s). Your C File has every piece of correspondence between you and the VA about your claim(s) for benefits and compensation. The VA keeps on file every claim you have filed since being discharged from service and all of the related evidence that goes with each claim. Examples of documents which may be contained in your Claims File include:
- Service Records, including a veteran’s DD 214
- Service Treatment Records
- Non-government medical records (i.e. private medical records)
- Government medical records (i.e. VAMC records)
- Compensation and Pension Examinations
- Buddy Statements
- Employment Records
Additionally, every claim, appeal, and decision is included in your C-File. Once we have received your C File, we go through every page and analyze each document, regardless of if your C-File is 300 pages or 3,000 pages. The length of your C-File is irrelevant, though it helps us understand what information is gathered, needed, or missing.
By going through the C File, we can detect whether important information is missing and request that the VA gather or provide such information. For example, many times a veteran’s service records are missing from the C File or the provided records are incomplete. Without going through the C File, a veteran would not know to request for the VA to obtain the missing service records. These missing service records could prove “boots on ground” in Vietnam for Agent Orange exposure or provide corroboration for a PTSD stressor. By having complete service records it may be easier to provide evidence of MOS, performance of duties, and designated unit. The same goes for service treatment records which can often times show treatment of a condition during service.
It is important to make sure the VA has all of this important information because the VA uses the C File to base its decision on your claim(s). The evidence the VA uses in deciding your claim is often based on what included in your C-File. Though the VA has a duty to assist the veteran with obtaining all of the necessary evidence, sometimes all of the evidence is not gathered and by reviewing the C File, an attorney can plan what steps are necessary for handling your claim.
Although it often takes time to receive your C-File, I hope this explains to you how important having your C-File can be in the success of your claim(s). It is important for you or your attorney to review your C-File before deciding your plan of attack because the C File provides the road map for proving your claim. Whether your C-File provides insight on errors made by the VA or additional evidence needed, reviewing the C File provides the guidance needed to develop the best possible claim.