So, you’ve filed your VA disability claim with your friendly VSO or on your own (good on you by the way) and are wondering what the next step in the process is? More than likely you’ll be contacted by a contracted entity to do your C&P (compensation and pension) exams. You may be wondering, what do I need to do to prepare for these? How do I act? How do I dress? A million questions will begin to race through your mind and rightfully so. This is the most important day in your claims process. But don’t panic! I’d like you to do some homework before your big day. To do that, I give you the “FIVE P’s.”
Now that you have your date you have some work to do. Gather your information. Buy a notebook. Make a list of all your symptoms. How many times a week do these symptoms affect you? Write those dates down. Keep a calendar if you need to. Download an app on your phone as well to track them in case you forget your notebook. I use my Google calendar.
Listen, I know it can be tedious. But I’d rather have you overprepared than under. If the symptoms affect others in your life, ask your spouse or partner to help. Have them keep track as well. Be ready for those questions type of questions from the examiner. When they ask how often your symptoms affect you, specific dates work wonders as answers. You can also research the eCFR title 38 part 4 schedule for rating disabilities, and see what the test may consist of. There are plenty of places on the internet to find help with that research as well. BE PREPARED!
Pull up the address on the internet. Use google maps to calculate your drive. Get there early. Is the appointment during rush hour? Lunchtime? Account for these things. Do you have your own transportation? If not make sure you’ve arranged it for that day in advance. I’d also suggest for you to plan what you’re going to wear the night before your exam. Don’t get caught up in this the day of. This is not the time to wear something you’ve never worn before. If you’re shorts and a t-shirt type of person like myself, then that’s what you’re going in. Now is not the time for the new church suit.
Keep in mind that if you’re there for some sort of behavioral disability then be in that look. If you haven’t been shaving lately, then don’t do it the day of, especially if you’re having problems with motivation or seeking employment. And one more thing on this. If you have some sort of assistance to walk or brace or what not, WEAR IT AND USE IT! Bottom line, be ready!
DO NOT MISS YOUR EXAM! I REPEAT! DO NOT MISS YOUR EXAM!
When you wake up the day of your exam, I want you pulling up that address again in Google maps. This needs to b the first thing you do, so you’re focused on your appointment. You never know if you’ll be rerouted or if there may be an accident along with your route. Have that driving time in your head while you’re getting ready. Get there with time to spare. Sit in your car until a few minutes before your appointment if you don’t want to seem over anxious. Bring your breakfast. Eat when you get there to ease your nerves. But get there on time!
Look, there are a ton of these opinions out there on the web about how to act during your disability exam. There are some really good ones as a matter of fact. But there are also a ton of opinions out there from people who I personally feel get this one wrong. You may come across some that say to appear shut down. Be closed off. Some even say standoffish to a point if you’re dealing with anxiety/depression.
Look, I get it. Play the part, right? Wrong if you ask me. You have your rock solid DBQ to hand off. You have your notes to answer their questions. You may even have your spouse or partner in there with you to support you. There is no need to take your stress out on your examiner. They are to be treated with respect. You want them on your side. To be empathetic. Now I’m not saying to come into the room whistling Dixie. If you’re not feeling great that is your answer to that question. But replying with a Sir or Ma’am will be noticed. Trust me.
Have your disabilities ready to discuss. If you have DBQ’s, go over them before your appointment. Your actual appointment day is not the time for you to become familiar with what’s on those. And remember to bring those DBQ’s. Buy a folder to keep everything together. Hand them off. No need to waste your precious breaths overexplaining your ailments. I like to answer any questions concerning my disability with, “Sir/Ma’am, my doctor has provided you with the details you are seeking on my DBQ.” Don’t exaggerate your symptoms or begin quoting things you may have come across on the internet or your Facebook group you belong to full of wannabe VA claims professionals if you have a DBQ stick to the details on it.
You want that examiner repeating what your doctor has said in your favor to the VA. You are there to describe your limitations and your symptoms. Not to ask their opinion or to give your personal opinion on the state of the VA or the President of the United States for that matter. AND DO NOT ARGUE! If something doesn’t go your way there are resources. Have that notebook handy or your phone ready to take any notes on something you may not have agreed with or want to be noted in case you need to file a complaint about this examination. It happens, and we can help you if this does take place. Just do your best not to have a bad exam.
So, there they are, my FIVE P’s. I believe that if this is your first time going through this process and you keep these tips in mind, you’ll find success. Even if it isn’t your first time I’d advise you to give these a try as well. I want you to walk into your appointment prepared and feeling confident that you are ready to get this done! Godspeed Veteran. Thank you for your service!
Brett is a retired U.S. Air force Master Sergeant of twenty years and calls Orlando, Florida his home nowadays. He is a husband to his wife Catherine and proud father to twin boys Mason and Cannon. You can contact him at [email protected].