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May 9, 2024

C&P Exam for Deviated Septum: What to Expect and How to Prepare!

Last updated on May 12, 2024

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After you’ve filed a VA claim for deviated septum, you’re likely going to be scheduled for a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam.

This specialized exam aims to assess the severity and impact of your condition, and to establish a connection, if applicable, to your military service.

Okay, let’s explore what to expect and how to prepare for your deviated septum C&P exam.

Summary of Key Points

  • C&P Exam Objectives and Process: After filing a VA claim for a deviated septum, the next step typically involves a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam to assess the severity of the condition, its impact on your daily life, and its potential connection to military service. The exam focuses on confirming the diagnosis, determining if there is a service connection, and evaluating symptom severity which affects nasal obstruction and breathing.
  • VA Rating and Evaluation Criteria: The VA uses Diagnostic Code (DC) 6502 for deviated septum, providing a 10% rating if it’s classified as “traumatic” and substantially obstructs nasal airflow—either with at least 50% obstruction on both sides or complete 100% obstruction on one side. This reflects the significant respiratory impairment a deviated septum can cause.
  • Preparation for the Exam: To prepare for the C&P exam, gather all pertinent medical records and create a symptom diary detailing the frequency, severity, and impact of your deviated septum symptoms. Reviewing the Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) for nasal conditions can also help you provide detailed and relevant information during the exam.

Main Objectives of the C&P Exam for Deviated Septum

The C&P exam for a deviated septum primarily focuses on three elements:

  • #1. Diagnosis Confirmation: Verification that the veteran has a diagnosed deviated septum.
  • #2. Service Connection: Determination of whether the deviated septum is connected to military service, based on the type of claim filed (e.g., new claim, secondary claim, or aggravation claim).
  • #3. Severity of Symptoms Assessment: Evaluation of the impact of the deviated septum on nasal obstruction and breathing difficulties, and its effects on daily activities and quality of life.

Pro Tip: The VA rates a deviated septum under Diagnostic Code (DC) 6502, categorized within respiratory system disabilities. For this specific condition, the VA provides only one possible rating, which is 10%. This rating is assigned if the deviated septum qualifies as “traumatic,” meaning it substantially obstructs nasal airflow. Specifically, a 10% disability rating is granted if at least 50% of the nasal passages are blocked on both sides, or there is complete 100% obstruction of the nasal cavity on one side. This rating reflects the significant impact such obstructions can have on a veteran’s respiratory function.

What to Expect During the C&P Exam for Deviated Septum

C&P exams can be conducted in-person, via telehealth, over the phone, or through a records only review (called an ACE exam).

For a deviated septum, you can expect a face-to-face examination with a healthcare professional who will review your medical records and ask important questions related to your claim.

Generally, a deviated septum requires the examiner to conduct a physical in-person exam of the nose and throat.

Here’s what typically happens during a face-to-face exam for a deviated septum:

  • Interview and Questionnaire: Expect questions about your symptoms, medical history, and any treatments you’ve undergone. Discuss when symptoms began and any incidents or injuries that might have caused or aggravated your condition.
  • Physical Examination: The examiner will physically inspect your nasal structure for deviations and check for signs of related conditions like sinusitis or nasal polyps.
  • Breathing Assessment: Functionality tests may be performed to evaluate the extent of obstruction caused by the deviated septum.

Potential Service-Connected Causes of a Deviated Septum

A deviated septum in veterans can be influenced by various service-related causes.

Understanding these potential causes can be crucial when applying for VA disability benefits, as establishing a connection to military service can affect the outcome of the claim.

Here are some potential service-related causes of a deviated septum:

Physical Trauma:

  • Combat Injuries: Exposure to combat situations often includes blasts, falls, or vehicular accidents, which can lead to nasal injuries that cause or exacerbate a deviated septum.
  • Training Accidents: Military training exercises, such as hand-to-hand combat drills, obstacle courses, or parachute jumps, can result in facial injuries impacting the nasal septum.

Environmental Exposures:

  • Extreme Weather Conditions: Service in extreme climates (e.g., cold Arctic stations or hot desert environments) may contribute to nasal damage through frostbite, dry air inhalation, and other climate-related factors.
  • Exposure to Pollutants: Deployment in areas with high levels of air pollution, such as burn pits or areas with industrial pollutants, can cause chronic irritation and inflammation of the nasal passages, potentially leading to or exacerbating a deviated septum.

Occupational Hazards:

  • Mechanical Trauma: Jobs involving heavy machinery or equipment, which pose a risk of facial injuries, can contribute to the development of a deviated septum.
  • Exposure to Chemicals: Handling or being in close proximity to chemicals, solvents, or other harsh substances can cause nasal irritation or damage over time.

Sports and Physical Training:

  • Military Sports Activities: Participation in military sports or physical training often involves risks of accidental impacts on the face, which can result in a deviated septum.

Surgical Interventions:

  • Medical Procedures: Surgeries or medical interventions involving the nasal passages, which are sometimes necessary due to other injuries or conditions acquired during service, can inadvertently cause a deviated septum.

What Other Conditions Can Be Caused or Made Worse by a Deviated Septum?

Keep in-mind that even though you’re attending a C&P exam for deviated septum, the examiner can make other findings that can impact your VA disability rating.

For example, a deviated septum can lead to several complications and associated conditions, primarily affecting the respiratory system and overall quality of sleep.

Here are some common conditions that can be caused or exacerbated by a deviated septum:

  • Sinusitis: A deviated septum can block the nasal passages and restrict drainage, leading to inflammation and infection of the sinuses, known as sinusitis.
  • Nasal Congestion: The obstruction of one or both nasal passages can result in chronic nasal congestion, which can affect one side more than the other, depending on the direction and severity of the deviation.
  • Nosebleeds: The uneven airflow caused by a deviated septum can dry out the nasal membranes, leading to frequent nosebleeds.
  • Sleep Disorders: A deviated septum can restrict airflow through the nose, leading to snoring. In more severe cases, it can contribute to obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty breathing at night can lead to disruptions in sleep, impacting overall sleep quality and leading to daytime fatigue.
  • Facial Pain: The strain of trying to breathe through obstructed nasal passages can cause tension and pain in the facial muscles, sometimes contributing to headaches.
  • Postnasal Drip: A deviated septum can cause mucus to build up and drip down the throat, leading to throat irritation and coughing.
  • Recurrent Respiratory Infections: Obstruction in the nasal passages can hinder the body’s ability to clear out pathogens, increasing the risk of recurrent colds, flu, and other respiratory infections.
  • Altered Sense of Smell: Severe deviation can impact the olfactory function, leading to a reduced sense of smell.

What Questions Will I Be Asked for the Deviated Septum C&P Exam?

Here is a list of questions a veteran might be asked at a C&P exam for a deviated nasal septum, based on the information outlined in the DBQ for sinusitis/rhinitis and other conditions of the nose, throat, larynx and pharynx:

Initial Confirmation:

  • Do you currently have or have you ever been diagnosed with a deviated nasal septum?

Details of Diagnosis:

  • When were you first diagnosed with a deviated nasal septum?
  • What was the cause of the deviation? Was it traumatic or congenital?

Severity of Symptoms Assessment:

  • Do you experience any breathing difficulties due to the deviated septum?
  • Is there at least 50% obstruction of the nasal passage on both sides?
  • Is there complete obstruction of the nasal passage on either side?

Impact on Daily Life/Activities:

  • How does the deviated septum affect your daily activities and quality of life?
  • Do you experience frequent nosebleeds, sinus infections, or other complications due to the deviated septum?

Medical Treatment History:

  • Have you undergone any treatments for your deviated septum, such as medications or surgery?
  • If you have had surgery, what type of surgery was it (e.g., septoplasty) and when did it occur?

Current Symptoms and Management:

  • What symptoms are you currently experiencing due to the deviated septum?
  • How do you manage these symptoms? (e.g., nasal sprays, breathing strips, surgery)

Medical History Review:

  • Please describe the history of your condition, including any onset linked to specific incidents or injuries.

Additional Diagnoses:

  • Do you have any other nose, throat, larynx, or pharynx conditions?
  • If yes, please list them and provide any relevant details such as the date of diagnosis and how they interact with your deviated septum.

Evidence Review:

  • Can you identify the medical records that were reviewed for this examination (e.g., service treatment records, private treatment records)?

Functional Impact:

  • Does your deviated septum impact your ability to work or perform any specific tasks? If yes, can you provide examples?

How to Prepare for the Exam

To ensure you’re well-prepared for your C&P exam for the nose, throat, and deviated nasal septum:

  • Gather Records and Documents: Assemble all relevant medical records, including diagnosis reports, treatment history, and any correspondence related to your deviated septum. These documents are crucial to support your claim. Review your records thoroughly and bring hard copies to the C&P exam for reference.
  • Create a Symptoms Diary: Maintain a detailed log of your symptoms related to the deviated septum, noting their frequency, severity, and how they affect your breathing. Document any related issues such as nasal congestion, snoring, or recurrent sinus infections. This diary will help you clearly communicate the impact of your deviated septum on your daily life during the exam.
  • List Functional Impacts: Compile a list of ways in which the deviated septum affects your ability to perform daily activities. This may include difficulties with breathing, especially at night, which could lead to sleep disturbances, or challenges during physical activity. Illustrate how these limitations affect your work and personal life to provide a strong basis for your claim during the exam.
  • Review the DBQ for Conditions of the Nose: Familiarize yourself with the Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) for conditions of the nose, which will be used during your exam. Be prepared to discuss the history of your condition, any treatments you have undergone, and their outcomes. Understanding the DBQ format can help you provide detailed and relevant information during the exam.

DBQ for Deviated Septum [Download]

The DBQ for Sinusitis/Rhinitis and Other Conditions of the Nose, Throat, Larynx and Pharynx will be completed electronically by the C&P examiner at your exam.

Pay close attention to Part D for “deviated nasal septum.”

We’ve made a copy available for review and download below:

About the Author

Brian Reese
Brian Reese

Brian Reese

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).

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