What Is A Disability Benefits Questionnaire or DBQ And How Can They Be Used To A Claimant’s Advantage?

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 supporting your claim, have them 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 sections are fairly detailed, but not all 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 sections 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 yet most important. This is the only place in the DBQ where a physician can give their 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 their 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 of the pain level and the physical limitations 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 most 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.

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