Understanding Independent Medical Examinations (IME)
Disabled veterans are used to regular examinations by VA physicians for their disability claims, but they might also greatly benefit from having an Independent Medical Exam, or IME, conducted. Unlike the exams conducted by doctors affiliated with the VA, IME’s are performed by doctors with no direct ties to either the veteran or the VA. Trained to use VA-specific language when discussing and documenting injuries and disabilities, these doctors look at service and treatment records along with the physical examination they perform. An IME can provide the necessary medical evidence to a VA benefits claim and provide an impartial voice in the face of potentially biased exams conducted by VA medical professionals.
Veterans struggling with getting the VA benefits disability rating they deserve should consider having an IME performed. Doctors who conduct such exams are usually specialists, well-practiced in their fields. Unlike many of the doctors working for the VA, IME physicians often conduct their own research and publish their results. Because of this, they are often at the forefront of the research being conducted on a given specialty. An IME doctor’s CV is included in the results of their examination of the veteran, so their expertise on a given topic can give veterans an upper hand when seeking a disability rating.
Compensation and Pension Exams
Anyone who files a claim with the VA will be provided with a Compensation and Pension exam, also known as a C&P. Conducted under very specific rules, the appointment can hold significant weight over whether or not a veteran is approved for benefits. Anyone who opts not to attend their C&P can be denied benefits, even if they have other medical records proving their need for assistance. Because these exams are often high-pressure experiences for veterans, the results are not always a true reflection of the veteran’s condition.
While neither a C&P examiner or an IME physician rates a veteran’s disability or has direct say in whether or not their benefits claim should be approved, their opinions hold significant weight. Raters at the VA will read over a benefits claim, all medical evidence, including the C&P and determine if there is enough evidence to support the idea that the person’s injuries were service-connected and significant enough to warrant disability compensation. While the rater has to review all medical evidence, ultimately, the decision lies in the hands of the rater not thephysician.
The Importance of Self-Advocacy
The VA claim process can be a lengthy one. Too often, disabled veterans jump through bureaucratic hoops trying to ensure they meet all the requirements for benefits. Despite their perseverance, many well-deserving veterans are denied the opportunity to receive the benefits they deserve. While decisions can be appealed, the appeals process can years, keeping veterans waiting even longer for the benefits they deserve. That’s why it is critical that anyone applying for VA benefits puts forward the best initial application possible.. However, an IME doctor needs to be properly prepared to conduct the IME and provide an opinion that conforms with the VA requirements.
Anyone applying for VA benefits can benefit from a conversation with an attorney. By reaching out to Veterans Law Group for a free consultation, you ensure your best interests are protected. One of the most respected firms in the field of veterans disabilities, VLG is committed to representing servicemen and women with compassion and respect. Fill out this consultation request today to get started.