The C&P Exam is the #1 most important day in the VA claim process, and the results of your exam will literally make or break your final VA disability rating.
In this guide, you’ll learn 10 expert tips to dominate your C&P exam, even if you’re scared or don’t know what to expect, which will help you get the VA rating and compensation you deserve.
Regardless of how much information you submit with your VA disability claim, the VA will still likely order a separate medical examination from a medical provider who is contracted to work for the VA.
This is called a Compensation and Pension Exam—more commonly referred to as C&P Exam.
You’ll likely get a phone call and a packet in the mail with instructions.
Some exams happen over the phone or via video teleconference, while others are required to be conducted in person.
Some might even happen based on a records-only review, which is known as an Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE) exam.
The C&P exam is understandably scary for veterans.
Somebody you don’t know, who’s never treated you, might conduct an examination, and then whatever they write in their notes will likely determine your VA disability benefits.
Yeah, that’s terrifying.
One of the questions I get asked all the time is “Brian, do you have any C&P exam tips?”
Yes, I do!
I underwent ten C&P exams over the last eight years because I have multiple disabilities and because I (successfully) reapplied for benefits.
Not one of these exams made me feel comfortable.
The examiner holds so much power!
I have trouble trusting people in general, especially the gatekeeper of benefits I deserve for myself and my family.
In my opinion, the C&P exam is the #1 most important day in the entire VA disability claim process.
You can do everything else right, but if you miss your C&P exam or, worse, have a bad C&P exam, the results can ruin your final VA rating.
It’s shameful, I know; however, the sad reality is that the VA rater, also known as the “Rating Veterans Service Representative” (RVSR), will rely almost solely on the notes from the C&P examiner.
Don’t worry, though—even if you have a terrible C&P exam, there is still hope, and you can fight it, and maybe even get a new exam!
But first, use these 10 Expert-Level C&P Exam Tips to DOMINATE your VA C&P exam!
- One of the questions I get asked all the time is “Brian, do you have any C&P exam tips?”
- Top 10 Tips to ACE Your VA C and P Exam!
- Did You Know Inflation is at a 40-Year High?
- #1: Read Through Your Military, VA, and Private Medical Records
- #2: Review CFR, Title 38, Part 4, “Schedule for Rating Disabilities”
- #3: Do NOT Describe Your Best Day
- #4: Be “Uncomfortably Vulnerable”
- #5: Explain How Your Disabilities Are Limiting Your Work, Life, and Social Functioning
- #6: Know Your True Story Completely, Plus Any In-Service Incidents or Stressor Events
- #7: Give the C&P Examiner a Detailed Picture of Your Life Before, During, and After Service
- #8: The C&P Examiner is NOT Your Friend; Your Exam Starts in the Parking Lot
- #9: Bring Hard-Copy Documents With You to the C&P Exam
- #10: After Your Exam, Ask Your Accredited VSO to Download Your C&P Exam Results from VBMS
- Stuck, Frustrated, and Underrated by the VA? WE GOT YOUR SIX!
- About the Author
Top 10 Tips to ACE Your VA C and P Exam!
- Tip #1: Read Through Your Military, VA, and Private Medical Records
- Tip #2: Review CFR, Title 38, Part 4, “Schedule for Rating Disabilities”
- Tip #3: Do Not Describe Your Best Day
- Tip #4: Be “Uncomfortably Vulnerable”
- Tip #5: Explain How Your Disabilities Are Limiting Your Work, Life, and Social Functioning
- Tip #6: Know Your True Story Completely, Plus Any In-Service Incidents or Stressor Events
- Tip #7: Give the C&P Examiner a Detailed Picture of Your Life Before, During, and After Service
- Tip #8: The C&P Examiner is NOT Your Friend; Your Exam Starts in the Parking Lot
- Tip #9: Bring Hard-Copy Documents With You to the C&P Exam
- Tip #10: After Your Exam, Ask Your Accredited VSO to Download Your C&P Exam Results from VBMS
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#1: Read Through Your Military, VA, and Private Medical Records
Do this in detail prior to your C&P exam.
There is no substitute for knowing what’s in your Service Treatment Records (STRs), VA medical records, or any private medical records.
Be prepared to discuss the medical diagnosis of your disability, any subjective symptoms of your disability that are in your STRs, as well as the logical link or connection between your current disability and your active duty military service—the Nexus.
When did the symptoms of the disability begin?
Did they start on active duty or after you left the service?
Do you have current symptoms of the disability into the present day?
If yes, how severe are those symptoms?
Know the answers to all these questions.
#2: Review CFR, Title 38, Part 4, “Schedule for Rating Disabilities”
The law that governs all VA disability claims is CFR, Title 38, Part 4, Schedule for Rating Disabilities (also known as the “VASRD”).
The complete VA disability claims list contains more than 900 ratable disabilities under the law.
You should review the general schedule prior to your C&P exam, which will help you understand your disability and how your current symptoms and keywords are tied to a specific rating under the law.
You should also review the condition specific Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) for your claimed disability; this is what the C&P examiner will complete online at your exam.
Did you know one of our websites, Military Disability Made Easy, has categorized the entire VASRD with “simple” and “made easy” answers?
#3: Do NOT Describe Your Best Day
This means that you need to tell the C&P examiner how you are on your very worst days.
Remember that the VA C&P exam is a snapshot in time of how you’re doing on one particular day.
If you’re having a good day, but this is unusual for you, make sure to explain to the examiner how you normally are on your worst days.
For example, if your back pain is so severe that you often can’t get out of bed in the morning without help, or you wear a back brace, make sure to tell the C&P examiner in detail.
MISSION CRITICAL: Don’t ever lie or stretch the truth when it comes to your VA disability claim.
At your C&P exam, you should think, look, act, and speak as you would on a normal day.
What does this mean?
Here’s a few examples:
- If you don’t require the daily use of braces or a walker, don’t just pull them out for your C&P exam. Do what you would normally do.
- If you usually shower and dress decently, do so the-day-of your exam. We recommend you wear comfortable clothing such as sweatpants and a t-shirt. If you’re reporting to the exam from work, wear what you normally wear for work.
- If you’re able to lift weights and workout, tell the examiner the truth. Don’t say you can’t lift more than 10 pounds if you’re at the gym using 40 pound dumbbells.
Pro Tip: A C&P examiner might write that you’re malingering if you attempt to falsify or exaggerate your disability symptoms/impairment. Malingering is defined as “the intentional production of false or grossly exaggerated physical or psychological symptoms motivated by external incentives such as avoiding military duty, avoiding work, obtaining financial compensation, etc.”
Important: According to federal law, there are criminal penalties, including a fine and/or imprisonment for up to 5 years for withholding information or for knowingly providing incorrect information in support of your VA disability compensation claim for VA benefits (See 18 U.S. Code § 1001).
#4: Be “Uncomfortably Vulnerable”
If it feels uncomfortable for you to say something to a C&P examiner you just met, that means you need to say it!
For example, nobody wants to talk about their sexual dysfunction, and that’s exactly why you need to talk about it.
Tell the C&P examiner about the severity of your VA erectile dysfunction (ED) and how it’s hurting your relationship with your spouse.
If you’re abusing alcohol as a coping mechanism because of your severe anxiety and insomnia, you should tell the examiner, because you’re helping explain the severity of your mental health symptoms: “I’m abusing alcohol and drugs to numb the pain and escape my anxiety and depression.”
#5: Explain How Your Disabilities Are Limiting Your Work, Life, and Social Functioning
VA claims for all mental health conditions come down to your current level of “Occupational and Social Impairment” as well as the severity of your mental health symptoms and circumstances.
How is your severe PTSD affecting your work, life, and social functioning?
VA claims for other conditions (non-mental health) are all about three things:
- Limitation of range of motion
- Pain level
- Loss of Use
Make the examiner stop as soon as you feel any pain or discomfort.
If you can’t bend over to touch your toes, don’t do it! If you’re unable to move your knee to your chest, don’t let the examiner move you!
Be prepared to discuss how your disability is limiting and affecting your work, life, and social functioning.
For example, you can say things like, “My PTSD is so severe that I had an angry outburst at my boss last week and got written up for it.”
Another example is, “My plantar fasciitis is causing me so much heel pain that I can no longer run or workout, and I’ve gained twenty pounds in the past three months. In fact, it’s difficult to walk, and shoe inserts don’t help.”
#6: Know Your True Story Completely, Plus Any In-Service Incidents or Stressor Events
Be prepared to discuss the many related incidents in detail with the examiner.
Most veterans don’t have specific incidents well documented, so make sure to discuss the approximate month and year of when your disability symptoms began.
You may want to include a VA buddy letter to help explain and corroborate your story, which will help prove the Nexus requirement for service connection.
For example, “I was sexually assaulted by my boss on a Navy ship in October 1987. I never told anyone about this incident, as I feared for my life and career.”
#7: Give the C&P Examiner a Detailed Picture of Your Life Before, During, and After Service
You must be prepared to talk about your life in detail.
Where did you grow up and what was your life like before joining the military?
What did you do on active duty, and did you have any specific job requirements?
Did you deploy to a combat zone or other austere location?
What happened after you left active duty service?
Make sure you’ve given the C&P examiner a detailed picture of your life and how the military either caused or made your disability condition worse, or how your service-connected disability caused or aggravated your currently claimed disability.
If you can make the C&P examiner feel something, they’ll be able to relate to your story, which will help them make the proper analysis regarding the severity of your disability.
#8: The C&P Examiner is NOT Your Friend; Your Exam Starts in the Parking Lot
Keep in mind that the C&P examiner is NOT your friend.
The examiner is there to do a job they’re being paid for, which is to conduct an adequate examination of your claimed disability and to document the record for the VA Rater.
You are also there to do a job, which is to be open, honest, truthful, and uncomfortably vulnerable.
Be polite and courteous but stay away from small talk.
And remember this: Your VA C&P exam begins when you pull into the parking lot!
Yes, there are plenty of stories of cameras and front-desk personnel relaying information to the examiner from the parking lot.
#9: Bring Hard-Copy Documents With You to the C&P Exam
I get asked this all the time: “Brian, I have trouble remembering things, can I bring my medical records, Nexus Letters, DBQs, and personal statements to the C&P Exam?”
The answer is: YES!
Put them in a folder and carry them with you to the exam.
It’s also okay to offer them to the C&P examiner, but don’t force it.
The C&P examiner should have already reviewed all your submitted evidence (digitally) before your C&P exam, but sometimes they’re lazy, aren’t prepared, and haven’t reviewed your VA claims file.
So, yes, it’s a good idea to have your hard-copy evidence with you and to offer it to the examiner.
After your exam is over, you can also leave copies of your evidence with the examiner for further review and analysis.
#10: After Your Exam, Ask Your Accredited VSO to Download Your C&P Exam Results from VBMS
This final tip is critical, especially if you think you might have had a bad C&P exam.
You can challenge the accuracy and validity of your C&P exam, to include requesting a new exam BEFORE your final VA rating decision by calling 1-800-827-1000.
If your C&P exam was performed by a VA-doctor at a VA-facility, the results of your C&P exam will be in your VA medical records on MyHealtheVet in 48-72 hours.
If your C&P exam was performed by a contracted doctor at a private facility, the results of your C&P exam will be uploaded to the Veteran Benefits Management System (VBMS).
The fastest and easiest way to get your C&P exam results from a contracted provider is to have your accredited VSO download a copy for you from VBMS.
Finally, you can get a copy of your C&P exam results (and entire VA claims file) by filing an online FOIA request for a copy of your VA C File.
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About the Author
Brian Reese is one of the top VA disability benefits experts in the world and bestselling author of You Deserve It: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Veteran Benefits You’ve Earned (Second Edition).
Brian’s frustration with the VA claim process led him to create VA Claims Insider, which provides disabled veterans with tips, strategies, and lessons learned to win their VA disability compensation claim, faster, even if they’ve already filed, been denied, gave up, or don’t know where to start.
As the founder of VA Claims Insider and CEO of Military Disability Made Easy, he has helped serve more than 10 million military members and veterans since 2013 through free online educational resources.
He is a former active duty Air Force officer with extensive experience leading hundreds of individuals and multi-functional teams in challenging international environments, including a combat tour to Afghanistan in 2011 supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.
Brian is a Distinguished Graduate of Management from the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO, and he holds an MBA from Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business, Stillwater, OK, where he was a National Honor Scholar (Top 1% of Graduate School class).