Disability Benefits Questionnaires or DBQs are the standard VA templates for VA and private examination reports. DBQs set forth an exhaustive list of questions to be addressed by physicians and these responses are used to evaluate a veteran’s disability claim. If your treating physician or a consulting physician is going to write an opinion in support of your claim, have him/her use a DBQ. There are DBQs for every type of disability and this list can be found at: https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/dbq_ListByDBQFormName.asp.
Let’s take the DBQ for a lumbar-spinal/back disability. This DBQ form can be found at: https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-0960M-14-ARE.pdf. You will notice that most of the sections are fairly detailed; but not all sections are of equal importance. This means that a physician must concentrate on the most important sections.
For the back DBQ, the diagnosis of the back disability is fundamental, found in section 1A & 1B. For claims to entitlement to service-connection (i.e., back claims which need to prove service-connection), section 2A is the least noticeable and yet the most important. This is the only place in the DBQ where a physician can give his/her reasons for finding the claimant’s back disability is service-connected/service-related. (A claimant may want to ask the physician to attach an addendum if more room is needed to explain his/her findings on service-connection).
Section 2B is another important section, dealing with flare-ups. In most cases, a claimant will not experience a flare-up at the exact time of an examination. Therefore, the claimant must inform the physician what the pain level is and what the physical limitations are during a flare-up. Flare-ups are when your disability is at its worst and most noticeable to you. It is even recommended that if you know in advance you will be seeing a physician for your DBQ exam, to pay attention to your disabilities and document the days it is noticeable and what issues/limitations you have.
Sections 3-7 cover a lot of ground, but only one measurement is truly important: Forward Flexion. Assuming the back claim is already service-connected, the disability level will almost likely be determined by the limitation of forward flexion. The VA will award a 40% disability rating for forward flexion limited to 30 degrees or less, a 20% disability rating for forward flexion greater than 30 degrees but less than 60 degrees, and a 10% disability rating for forward flexion between 60 and 85 degrees. Please note that when being examined and measured for flexion and movement do not hurt yourself while trying to bend. If it hurts at a certain point stop and let the examiner know, don’t push through to an uncomfortable/painful position.
This is a very good question. After all, experienced VA disability
attorneys usually charge a 20% contingent fee whereas Veterans Service Officers
(VSOs) provide representation for free.
There is no doubt that the vast majority of VSOs try their level best to
help disabled veterans. And many do a very fine job at it. However, in recent
years, the VA disability system has become more complex and adversarial. Due to
incompetency, needless formality and basic insensitivity, many VA regional
offices have become bureaucratic nightmares. Disabled veterans are asked to
submit more and more favorable evidence just to obtain their entitled benefits.
And, VA offices require ever greater understanding of the complexity of VA
statutes, regulations and court cases.
In general, attorneys have more legal sophistication than VSOs, as
attorneys, by definition, have a legal education. Beyond this, attorneys who
practice exclusively Veterans Disability law (like the attorneys of the Veterans
Law Group (VLG)) have a greater understanding of the workings of the VA
system. Moreover, attorneys are generally selective on the type of cases they take.
VSOs, on the other hand, must accept any and all cases which come their way.
This means that an attorney will give more time and attention to each individual
And finally — and this is very important – law firms have more
resources than VSOs in terms of staff support and funds to prosecute VA claims.
In most cases, medical evidence will decide the fate of claims. Typically, the VA
obtains their own medical examinations, and typically they are unfavorable to
disabled veterans. Law firms, such as the VLG, have the budget to pay for their
own private examinations (ranging from $800-$1,500) to rebut adverse VA