Keys to winning your service connected benefits: the C file
Through helping thousands of veterans with their VA benefits we have found some common themes in what it takes to win benefits. One of those keys is obtaining and thoroughly reviewing the veteran’s Claims file, aka the C file. The C file is the folder that the VA benefits section, the Veterans’ Benefits Administration, keeps on the veteran. The C file contains any and all claims that the veteran has filed since he or she was discharged from service. The file also contains any service records or service medical records that the VA has obtained to review the veterans file. Additionally, the C file will contain all the decisions that have been made in the veteran’s claims and any internal VA memos about the veteran’s case.
A lot of veterans get confused between the C file and the veteran’s VA treating medical file. To understand the difference one must understand the different sections of the VA. The veteran’s claim for service connected benefits is handled by the Veterans’ Benefits Administration, which is completely separate from the VA that the veteran comes in contact through medical care. The VA medical care is provided by the Veterans’ Health Administration. The Veterans’ Health Administration keeps it own file on the veteran of all the medical records the veteran has. Some of these records will make their way into the Veterans’ Benefits Administration’s C file. But a lot of the medical records will not.
After I review a veteran’s decision and speak with the veteran, I then order the veteran’s C file. The C file is the key to finding out what the VA has done on behalf of the veteran’s claim and what it has not. The C file will contain any service records, service medical records, current medical records, C&P exams and other evidence submitted for the veteran’s claim. Since the C file contains all the information on the claims that the veteran has filed the C file is typically hundreds to thousands of pages.
The 57 different VA Regional Offices take various amounts of time to respond to a request for a C file. There are a few that take only a month or so. Other VA Regional Offices can take well over a year to send the file. Most VA Regional Offices take around three to six months. Once I have the C file I send a copy to the veteran. My veteran is the best historian of his claims. He will be able to help me know what records he submitted but did not make it in the file and what other records that the VA should have obtained to prove his case.
I review the C file page by page and then meet with the veteran to formulate a plan for each of the claims. After reviewing the C file, we might discovery that the evidence does not exists to prove a certain claim. With another claim we might discover that the VA failed to request critical records from the service department. In still another claim, we might determine that we need to obtain further medical evidence to prove the case.
The C file is the key to establishing your plan of attack for your claims. In theory, you would be able to understand what you are missing from your claim by reviewing your last VA decision. However, anyone who has read a Rating Decision or a Statement of the Case will know that these documents are not very clear. The C file allows you to look at your claims piece by piece to determine what the VA already has and what the VA still needs to grant you service connected compensation. Fighting the VA for service connected benefits is a long and hard process. The best way to ensure success is to start by getting the C file and finding out what the VA already has and what the VA does not have so that you can focus on what is needed to prove your claim.