Any veteran seeking service connection for a mental health condition will have to complete a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam before the VA will decide his or her claim. The most important thing to remember with these exams is that the VA contracts out its examiners, meaning it uses physicians from external companies to perform the exam. The VA tends to underpay these contracted examiners, which results in many low-quality C&P examination reports. These low-quality examination reports are due to the contracted examiners performing incomplete file reviews, rushing veterans during the exam, not listening to them fully during the exam, and writing minimal and inadequate narrative sections that often do not correspond to the check-the-box portions of the examination report. On top of that, the VA’s lack of oversight regarding contracted C&P exams worsens the problem.
Due to the poor quality of these contracted exams, veterans should keep in mind several things before attending a C&P for their mental health condition:
- Use every question as an opportunity to get the most important information on record.
- This means telling the doctor about how your mental health condition affects your life and your ability to function and maintain relationships.
- Answer every question concisely and clearly.
- Repeat the answer multiple times if needed to ensure that the examiner understands and hears you.
- Be the most accurate representation of yourself and your condition as possible. Do not give the examiner any chance to misinterpret ambiguous information regarding your symptoms or their severity.
C&P exams can be overwhelming because of the feelings and memories they often bring up in veterans suffering from mental health conditions, but it is important that veterans attend any C&P exams the VA schedules for them. Receiving a “no-show” label for any unattended exams can hurt a veteran’s chances of having his or her claim approved.
It is also important to remember to show up early or on time for all C&P exams.