When you’re determining how to file for disability with the Veterans Administration (VA), make sure that you have all the documents related to your claim before your hearing. In order to receive disability, it’s important that you are able to prove that your disability is tied to your service, and that you have the correct documentation to back up your claim. When you and your attorney are preparing for your hearing, it’s important that you request your C File from the VA to assist you with the facts of your case.
What is your C File?
Your C File, also known as your Claims File, is a file compiled by the VA that holds all documentation related to every claim you’ve ever filed with the VA. This means that any information you’ve sent them regarding a claim, any information they’ve compiled on their own regarding your claim, and all documents created by the VA are contained in one file: your C File.
The biggest challenge to you and your legal team when compiling the facts of your case involve determining when your initial injury occurred, and how it ties to your time in service. The “nexus”, as it is known, is often difficult to pinpoint, especially by memory alone. Your C File will help your medical providers, because they can see where you were and what you were doing at the time.
For example, if you were injured while stationed at Fort Bragg as a paratrooper, your medical providers can show from the documents in your C File that yes: you were stationed in North Carolina during 2008 and were on active jump status at that time, which could have definitely resulted in the knee pain you experience now.
Your C File will also contain your DD-214 (report of separation), your orders, other medical records, and any supporting documents you would have provided for other claims during and following your service. You’ll need to file a VA-3288 in order to receive your complete C File. Keep in mind that it may take 3-6 months for you to receive your file. If you haven’t received it within six months, you can file a Freedom of Information (FOIA) Request, which is filed, generally, within one month.
What About my C&P Exam?
The documentation of your C&P exam--short for compensation and pension exam--should also be found within your C File.
A C&P exam is performed by a VA physician or contracted physician who will evaluate and document the current severity of your condition or injury under consideration for disability. This exam may be very short -- only 15 minutes for some -- but has long-lasting consequences when it comes to the amount of benefits you may receive.
Usually, only one C&P exam is necessary to determine your level of disability. However, if you have specific injuries or conditions related to your hearing, vision, or a dental or psychological condition, you may need additional C&P exams with a specialist. This additional exam is a VA disability requirement for receiving benefits for those conditions.
Why Do You Need Your C File for Your Hearing?
When you are learning how to file for disability with the VA, it’s easy to see how the process can become complicated. If you have knee pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and an autoimmune disease, these are three separate disability claims. The information in your C File will assist your medical team and your legal team with connecting all of the pieces of your medical history and your service and claims history so that you receive full benefits and a correct rating for all three conditions.
Three Things to Look for in Your C File
- Missing information
- Documents and facts to help your claim
It’s quite possible that when you receive your C File, it will be disorganized and not in chronological order. If you find errors or missing information in your C File, you’ll need to correct them. You most likely will receive your C File as a CD. You and your legal team, along with your medical providers, will need to take the information within your C File and connect the dots of information found within it in order to build evidence that supports your claim for benefits.
How Can My Attorney Help?
Your VA disability attorney is an integral part of your team moving forward with a VA appeal. A VA disability lawyer knows how the system works, and can help you navigate that system. They understand what a Veterans Law Judge is looking for in a case, and how to best present your case to your benefit. For example, many Veterans Law Judges want to hear directly from you in an unscripted way. If you appear too overly prepared, they may feel that your testimony has been rehearsed. If you are seeking benefits for PTSD, traumatic brain issues (TBI) or memory problems, they don’t expect you to come to your hearing with a prepared statement full of facts and details. In that instance, you can let your medical records found in your C File speak for themselves.
An attorney experienced in Veterans’ disability law can advise you, help you file appeals, assist you with proper and complete documentation, and can fight for you and with you as you navigate your next steps.
Filing a secondary claim can mean added effort and waiting on your part. It means more doctor visits, more documentation, and potential appeals. It can also lead to a disability rating you don’t feel matches your level of disability. Attorneys can act as an advocate on your behalf during this process.
An disability attorney can also:
- Identify strategies to maximize your best pathway to winning your claim
- Help navigate multiple claims or appeals
- Appeal for a higher disability rating
A qualified attorney will guide you through these next steps and advocate on your behalf. They will be familiar with how the VA and BVA reach claims decisions and can help identify any errors that could win you your benefits. They can act as legal counsel in court and advise you about your chances for success.