Do I Need an Attorney Before My C&P Exam?
Published February 3, 2022
You just got a notice in the mail requesting your appearance at a C&P Exam (Compensation & Pension Exam) a few months after filing your VA Disability Claim. This looks important and serious.
Do you need to hire a lawyer before the C&P exam?
The short answer is no.
The C&P exam process is an essential part of a veteran disability claim processing, but lawyers are rarely involved at this stage. In fact, there is a law prohibiting anyone from charging a veteran a fee for any assistance on a VA disability claim until a Notice of Decision has been issued.
What a C&P exam is, and why is it important?
A Compensation & Pension Exam (usually called a C&P Exam) is an important fact-finding procedural step requested in many, but not all, veteran claims for service-connected disability compensation benefits.
The C&P exam process begins with a notice to the veteran to appear at a VA medical facility or other designated medical professional to have an examination done. The C&P examiner will have reviewed your medical records (provided to them by the VA) and then will be asking you questions and doing a physical examination related to your disability claims. Unlike your treating doctor, the C&P examiner will limit the exam to asking you questions about the medical or mental condition relevant to your disability claim and will not make any treatment recommendations. It is also less extensive than an annual physical, often taking 20 minutes or so, though occasionally longer.
The C&P examiner writes a report following the exam, providing information from both your medical records and the exam. This information will become part of your VA disability claims file, upon which a decision is made on whether to grant you benefits. If the VA grants you benefits, they will use this information to determine the severity of your condition(s) (a rating), which will then factor into how much you will receive in benefits.
In short, the C&P exam is critical. However, you don’t need a lawyer for one.
Do all VA Disability claims require a C&P exam?
No. Sometimes the documentation a veteran supplies to the VA is sufficient and detailed enough that a C&P exam is not required.
Additionally, certain medical conditions are presumptively service-connected (such as specific diseases after Agent Orange exposure) and don’t require the level of detailed medical review as other conditions. The VA will determine whether it needs additional information via a C&P exam and then order one if they do, but it doesn’t happen in every case.
Even if it’s not required, should you get one?
No. A veteran does not have the option of requesting a C&P exam; a C&P exam is only requested by the VA in circumstances when they deem it is needed.
However, that doesn’t mean a veteran should not seek out and obtain a medical opinion relating to the disability claimed, which outlines symptoms and the findings from diagnostic testing. This information is helpful during the claims process, even if not identical to a C&P exam.
Is it possible to appeal the results of a C&P exam?
The findings in a C&P exam are put in a report that becomes part of a VA disability claims file, and it cannot be “appealed” directly. However, a veteran can receive a copy of the C&P examination report. If it reads in an unfavorable light, you can take some actions to improve the record in your disability claim file.
First, remember to write down some notes immediately after your C&P exam. What did the examiner ask you? What examination and tests did they do? Did they inquire about your pain levels, about any interference with your ability to work or your personal activities? Were you given sufficient time to explain your condition? Did it seem that the examiner hadn’t reviewed your file?
You can submit a Memorandum of Record to the VA detailing any insufficiencies you observed within the C&P examination process. And though it’s challenging to obtain, you can request a second C&P exam if the first one was conducted improperly.
More often, the better course of action is to supplement a “bad” C&P exam report by submitting the results of an independent medical examination, your general medicine doctor, or a specialist who can provide more detailed insight into your condition.
This supplement information can be submitted to the VA to be considered along with the C&P examination paperwork before the VA issues a Notice of Decision on your claim.
Finally, you can appeal an unfavorable Notice of Decision, the action taken after the C&P exam. As soon as that letter is issued, you can hire an attorney to assist you in an appeal, and that appeal can address any mistakes or oversights that may have occurred within the C&P examination process.
Have you received an unfavorable Notice of Decision, either an outright denial of the claim or a low disability rating? We may be able to help you with an appeal of your Notice of Decision. VA disability claim appeals are all we do every day. Reach out to us today.