Compensation & Pension Exams and DBQs
Once you have begun an application for veterans disability benefits, you may be required to complete a medical exam called the Compensation & Pension Exam. This examination is sometimes referred to as the C&P Exam or the VA Claims Exam. The exam is given by a doctor who works for the Veterans Administration (VA) or a private doctor that is contracted by the VA to complete the exam. The physician will examine your condition and document your disability on a Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ). The DBQ will be used by the VA when deciding your disability claim.
Keep in mind that the C&P exam is only one part of your veterans disability application. The doctor who examines you will not make the decision regarding your disability claim. The DBQ form that the doctor completes is only one of the materials used by the VA to determine your disability rating.
What is a DBQ?
The DBQ was created to “help streamline the collection of necessary medical evidence for the purpose of processing Veterans’ claims.” At your scheduled C&P Exam, a VA clinician will complete the DBQ to document the severity of the condition or illness that led to your application for veterans’ disability benefits.
There are over 70 different DBQs depending on the diagnosed condition, which range from psychological conditions to the loss of the sense of smell. Each DBQ can be used to provide more information about your experience with that particular medical condition or symptom.
How a C&P Exam is Scheduled
After you apply to the VA for disability benefits, make sure that the VA Medical Center that you attend has your current address. They will automatically schedule your appointment and send you a C&P Exam notice by mail or contact you via phone to schedule a date/time for the exam. A letter will provide you with the details of the appointment, including the date and time.
Before your exam date, you should:
- Review the date and time of the exam; if you need to reschedule, do so right away.
- Gather together your medical records.
- Call and confirm your appointment.
Preparing for the Exam
What to bring to the C&P Exam:
- Exam notice: Have your appointment letter with you.
- Medical records: Bring all previous doctor reports and tests to the appointment.
- Prescriptions: If you are taking any medications, bring the information for each prescription with you.
- A spouse or friend: You may be nervous, especially if this is your first C&P Exam. Consider bringing someone who can give you support and help you remember details about your condition.
The length of your exam will depend on the type of disability you have claimed. The doctor will ask questions and prepare a DBQ. You may be given a physical exam, but that does not always happen. It depends on the disability being examined.
Provide your doctor with as much information as possible. Be honest and straightforward, and do not exaggerate your symptoms. Go over each of your conditions, and provide the physician with details regarding your medication, treatments, pain and suffering, and anything else that is related to your disability claim. Depending on the type and number of conditions you’re claiming, either a single doctor or multiple doctors will examine you. If more than one doctor must examine you, than multiple exams will be scheduled. For example, a back specialist may examine you for chronic back pain, while a psychiatrist would examine you separately for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Mental health exams
If your disability includes an evaluation for a mental health condition, then your psych exam will consist primarily of the doctor asking you questions. You will need to explain your symptoms and possibly complete a psychological test.
DBQs Completed by Private Physicians
While a VA clinician is often more familiar with the DBQ and understands its value when making a disability determination, having a private physician complete it can be helpful. Many veterans will choose to have a private specialist or a long-time treating physician complete the form because of their extensive knowledge of the disabling condition or the veteran’s treatment history.
Keep in mind that the VA will not reimburse you for any expenses related to the completion of a DBQ by your private physician. However, veterans will not be charged for any appointments scheduled by the VA with a VA clinician or contracted physician.
Which DBQ Form Should I Use?
Many clinicians will select the appropriate DBQ forms for use in your exam. However, especially if your private physician will be completing the exam, it is important to come prepared with the correct form(s).
The DBQ forms are listed by symptom and body part or system. Some conditions have their own specific DBQ form and other conditions fall under a broad system or condition. If you have a condition that is not listed, it is perfectly fine to choose a DBQ form that is more generically related or falls into a broader category. For example, under the Psychological category, the VA lists three forms: Eating Disorders; Mental Disorders (other than PTSD), and Review Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If you suffer from anxiety, your best option would be the Mental Disorders form because anxiety falls under that broad category.
If you have multiple conditions that fall under a broad category, you may use one form to document the severity of all of the related conditions. If your claim for disability benefits involves more than one condition and they are not related, you should use a separate form for each condition.
A C&P Exam is one of the most important components used by the VA to determine your disability claim. Make sure that you attend all your C&P appointments and get the appropriate DBQ forms completed at each one. If you fail to report to one of your exams, the VA may prolong its decision or determine your rating “as-is” based only on the other materials submitted with your claim.
Remember, the C&P exam is a doctor’s evaluation of your condition for VA disability purposes, not for treatment. You will not receive any treatment or prescriptions. Rather, the doctor will be evaluating your disabilities. If you have any questions about your C&P exam(s) or DBQs, discuss them with your Veterans Service Officer (VSO) to make sure you are prepared for your appointment.
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