Matthew Hill: Hello and welcome to another Hill and Ponton video blog. I’m Matthew Hill here with Carol Ponton. Today we’d like to talk to you about what the examiners for the C&P exams use to rate your claim and to determine if it’s service-connected. What they look for is basically a boilerplate form that is used.
Matthew Hill: But let me back up. C&P examiners are the doctors, the nurse practitioners, the people that the VA sends you to to determine, one is your condition related to service, and two, what is the proper rating and what should it be? They are given these questionnaires, disability benefits questionnaires, they call them DBQs. They use those, they just go right through each question to determine what’s going on with your case, what’s the diagnosis, what are the problems it causes, and if it’s related to service. Today we wanted to talk to you about back exams and what they’re looking for versus what you might be coming in to discuss.
Carol Ponton: Right, so there’s a form that’s called back conditions and it’s a DBQ, disability benefits questionnaire, DBQ. Like Matt said, these doctors are given these forms and told to fill in the blanks. So it’s important that you know what’s on this form, so that you bring that to their attention. For instance, we talked about backs. The highest rating you can get for a back is 40%, unless your back is ankylosed, that means it doesn’t move at all. So where you get the rest of the ratings is from the things they note on this form.
Matthew Hill: And the things that the back causes, it’s not the back itself.
Carol Ponton: So in order to really file your claim and proceed your claim for your back, you need to make sure that they know every problem you have like radiculopathy. Radiculopathy is the back problem pinches a nerve and it causes pain or numbness to go down your legs, your feet. So you feel burning or tingling. The legs hurt all the time. You don’t walk as well, maybe you stumble. So those are things you need to point out.
Carol Ponton: So on the form it will have, first of all, it has you bending over, how far you can bend with pain. If you have pain, you need to let them know that. Then it talks about this radiculopathy down one or both legs and how it affects you. But on the form, there are other things on here that you need, they refer to, but they don’t really tell you about in one of those. For instances, many people who have back problems also have urinary tract problems, because the back causes this, it makes them go to the bathroom all the time, up all night, throughout the day. There’s a significant rating that you can get. I’m talking 60% some of these ratings, because of this.
Matthew Hill: Of the urinary problem, in addition to the 40% for the back.
Carol Ponton: Exactly. So the veterans are really hesitant to talk about, “I have to go to the bathroom all the time. I don’t want to leave the house because I’ll have an accident.” But this is part of your claim. By not telling the VA, by not asking for this, you’re losing a huge part of your claim. I had veterans who are really housebound, which is another thing you can file for. They can’t leave the house or they’ll have an accident. They need to be by the bathroom all the time. So that’s one of the things that you need to look for and to raise with your back problem.
Carol Ponton: Another is depression. When people have back problems that make them stay in bed, can’t go to their son’s little league game, can’t go to social, can’t sit through a movie, can’t do anything fun, they become depressed. The VA needs to know that because that is also related. It’s called a secondary service connection problem.
Carol Ponton: So when you look through these forums, you’re going to see different things that you should bring up. I encourage you to download the form, look at it, and make sure that you bring to the examiner’s attention all of this and not just your examiner. When you go in, this is very important, when you go in, especially if you’re treated at the VA and you talk about your back, but you don’t mention the urinary problem-
Matthew Hill: Or the depression.
Carol Ponton: Or the depression. Then when you file it for claim, they’ll think you don’t have it. So you need to start with your treating doctor to let them know all of these problems that your back is causing you.
Matthew Hill: Right. And as Carol said, information is power here. So we will put in the notes, the hyperlink to all these disability questionnaires. It’s important for you to spend the time going over these before you actually go to your appointment to see the doctor so that you know what they’re doing. I mean, they’re going to spend a lot of time doing stuff that’s not necessarily relevant as far as what’s the exact diagnosis, what are the forms they’re using, what have they reviewed military wise. But you need to look at what the ratings are, what they’re actually going to do as far as the section on the ratings and what secondary disabilities can be rated on there.
Carol Ponton: Yeah. The other thing is a lot of times they will send you a form to fill out. One of the big mistakes is that veterans don’t fill it out. So when this examiner writes up their exam, they put no problem, no problem, no problem. But many of you have told me your exams last five minutes. That’s where the examiner is getting their information from, this form that you have or have not completed. So when you look at this form here and they send you a form to complete, make sure you’re letting them know all the problems that you have because of your back condition or whatever you’re going there for.
Matthew Hill: Well, I think it’s … you don’t have to diagnose yourself. If you have depression and you think it’s because of something else, or your feet are killing you, you’re having to go to the bathroom all the time. The important thing is you’re just letting the doctor know. Just say, “Hey, look, I also have these problems.” The doctor should at least write those down, if not, say, “Wow, we need to hit up another disability questionnaire on that issue, or you probably need to see another doctor on that.”
Carol Ponton: Right.
Matthew Hill: Well, thank you for joining us today and we look forward to seeing you on this space again soon.