how to get your va c file

Getting a copy of your VA C-File may be one of the most important steps you can take if you want to cut through the fog of your VA Claim or Appeal.

In this post, I’ll tell you 3 ways to get it.

(In this video training, I will show you how to organize that C-File once you get it – and how to use the C-File to improve your VA Claim or Appeal).

What is a “C-File”?

The C-File is your VA Claims File and it in theory contains all the information that the VA needs to decide your claim.

The C-File contains service records, service medical records, post-service treatment records, VA correspondence (with you and internal to the VA), C&P Exam Request letters, C&P Exam Opinions, and the VA’s legal documents like your NOD, VA Form 9, etc.

It is my opinion that the C-File is the single most important component of every VA Claim.

It’s so important that when my law firm looks at a veteran’s case, we won’t offer representation until we can get a copy of the C-File from the Veteran’s Regional Office.

How to get your VA C File?

There are 3 ways to get your C-File from the VA:

1) Drive to your Regional Office and ask them to copy it for you.

PROS:

You may be able to get the paper portion of the file that day (though you’ll probably wait a few hours)

CONS:

You probably won’t get the electronic portion of your C-File stored in at least 3 electronic filing systems that I know of so far.

You should call 800-827-1000 and schedule  an appointment first, so the VA Regional Office Staff doesn’t turn you away when you get there.

Not everyone is close enough to their VARO to drive.

2) File VA Form 3288

PROS:

None that I know of.  Seriously, the only thing LESS useful than this form are the VA Form 21-4138 and those little squares of toilet tissue that come in the MRE.  (It’s the right idea, but just not enough to get the job done.)

CONS: 

There is no obligation for the VA to respond to this Form.

Requests using this form can take months, possibly years.

* Here’s a link to VA Form 3288 if you really want to submit another form that the VA doesn’t have to respond to:

3) The Veterans Law Blog (VLB) Method.

PROS:

VA has legal duty to provide your C-File in 20 business days.

If the VA Regional Office does not respond, you can ask a Federal Court for an Order directing the VA to produce your C-File (something with TEETH, finally!)

CONS:

You HAVE to be ready to take action if the VA doesn’t make its timeline.

Because you are using a method with real TEETH if the VA doesn’t comply, your request will skip ahead of other Vets that have been waiting longer  for their C-File.

Click here to learn the Veterans Law Blog method in my Training Video: “Your VA C-File: How to Get It and How to Use It.!”

What is the “Veterans Law Blog” Method?

This method isn’t something I just “pulled out of a hat”.

It took years of getting “fed up” with the VA taking its sweet time producing C-Files in my clients’ cases.

It took years of trying several different methods that did not work until I found a process that does work.

It took years of realizing how important this file was, but how hard it was to get a simple copy from the VA.

The process I teach works so well that over the years I have taught HUNDREDS of your attorneys and Veterans’ advocates  how to get theVA C File for their clients.  I know of at least 2 dozen law firms that actively use the Veterans Law Blog Method for getting C-Files.

I get half a dozen emails a week from law firms wanting me to teach other groups of Veterans and lawyers how to get your VA C Files.

Why?

Because it works.   It works if you use it and follow all the steps I lay out.  Read here to see what Veterans say about this method.

I figured that if the “Veterans Law Blog” Method for getting a copy of a Veteran’s C-File was so popular with attorneys, and was so effective, I need to go straight to my brother and sister Veterans and teach them how to do it themselves!

So I did.  Here’s what it is in the Video Training:

* Step-by-Step explanation of how to get your VA C File

* Every Form Template you might need – and tips/pointers on using the forms

* Explanation of what to do if the VA doesn’t send your FREE C-File within 20 business days of your request.

* The VA’s FOIA Requestor Handbook, which will tell you the VA’s policy on releasing ANY type of information you request.

* Names, addresses, fax numbers, phone numbers and (where provided) email addresses for the small handful of employees in the VA Records Management Center whose job it is to produce C-Files.

Click here to learn the Veterans Law Blog Method in the Video Training Course: “Your VA C-File: How to Get It and How to Use It!

14 Comments

  1. Angel Rodriguez

    Hi Chris Attig, I recent went thru my congressman to get my c-file under the FOIA. I was surprise to received it within a month. My lawyer requested my C-file under the Privacy Act back in October 2015 they are still waiting for it. I told my lawyer I be glad to forward my copy to her. She decline my offer and said; ” It was against their policy to accept my personal copy and VA needs to send it directly to them”. Remind you, my records are at Washington, DC at the BOR since January 2017. They are waiting for my lawyer’s input and send proof of my case. I don’t understand why my lawyer is wasting time. It’s like she milking the cow for all it’s worth. Is there anything I can do? or is my thinking wrong? Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Chris Attig

      Angel,

      I can’t give legal advice, and the Veterans Law Blog is educational in nature, and not a law firm. Also, I don’t want to interfere with any relationship you have with an attorney.

      I can answer this from the perspective of my law firm. We have a similar policy – while our firm would definitely take a look at the copy that was sent to you to start getting ready for your case, we also require that the VA deliver us a copy directly.

      This is so that later, if we have to make the argument that something was missing from your c-file, they can’t say “We sent it to the Veteran, they must have removed the documents you are looking for”. Lawyers call this the “chain of custody of evidence” and it’s a smart practice. It locks the VA in and prevents them from having an excuse why documents aren’t in your file.

      Not every law firm would want to see the file copy you got, however, because in some cases, it could cause them to prepare an entire case only to find out the VA had additional evidence that they did not send to you. Each law firm has different practices, though.

      I don’t know who your attorney is, and don’t need to….it sounds to me like a legitimate – albeit very frustrating – explanation.

      That said, your attorney might want to consider using the Freedom of Information Act (not the Privacy Act) to get your C-file. The process is a lot faster – and I teach it in my C-File training course, and the National Organization of Veterans Advocates has a webinar for attorneys who want to learn how to use this process (the steps are a little different for an attorney).

      I would add that I have never met a single attorney that tries to hold on to a case any longer than we have to. At my firm, we track the “carry cost” of a case – the cost of salaries and overhead pro-rated to each case on a monthly and quarterly basis. Though statistics vary over time, what we have found is that the “carry cost” of a case exceeds the value of a case usually in the 18-24 month range. By the 4th year we have had a case, any revenue we made on fees is eaten up by the carry cost….in other words, after having a case on our books for around 4 years, we lose money.

      It’s in our law firm’s interest to get cases finished in less than 18-24 months to maximize the firm’s revenue.

      I am sorry if the discussion of “revenue” sounds cold or callous – I don’t think of cases as “money”, and I don’t know any attorney that does….but I want you to understand the business side of law….it debunks a lot of lies about attorneys that are out there.

      Chris

      Reply
  2. Joseph Rinaldi

    I am currently in the process of trying to find a law firm that would submit my paperwork for Agent Orange disability. So far 5 firms stated they would only get involved in appeals after the VA rules on a case.

    Reply
  3. Gary Kelley

    I was just denied an IU and back claim even though they see where a bunker cave in on my back. Said my military x-ray showed sprain even though no mri or cat scan was not done then. I have had 5 back surgeries. Then they said I can do sedentary work which social security says I can’t. Any advice on the sedentary work thing. I read this was a common thing. Thank you and God bless

    Reply
  4. Sharif

    Does the veteran applicant have to make his/her own FOIA request for their C-file or can their attorney make the FOIA request on the claimant’s behalf? My question is motivated by several thoughts. 1) the lawyer making the FOIA request might cause the VARO to be more responsive since they will know upfront that the claimant already has counsel, 2) some vets/claimants have already been exhausted by “the system” and might not be inclined or motivated to file their own FOIA request.

    Reply
    • Chris Attig

      Sharif,

      Yes…the attorney can use FOIA to request a C-File for their client or a veteran who is a prospective client. I taught Veterans Advocates how to use the FOIA to improve their Veterans Practice in Fall 2013, and NOVA offers that training video (and all the materials you will need) online.

      Email me at vetlaw at attiglawfirm dot com and I will get you the links. Are you a NOVA member?

      Chris

      Reply
  5. DAN A.

    Wednesday, July 9, 2014

    I have been trying to obtain a copy of my C-file since April 24, 2014 — well over 60 days now. Following the directions from your blog, I mailed a certified letter (return receipt requested) and have verification that my letter of request was signed for at the VA Regional Office a few days later, on April 28, 2014.

    I finally tracked down the email address of the FOIA officer at the VARO, and he claims that he can not find my original request.

    What is most interesting about his response is the following paragraph, which indicates his belief that the VA is NOT required to give me a copy of my C-file within 20 business days, as your blog suggests. I can forward you his entire email response, if that would be helpful in framing your response to me.

    “For your reference, a request from a Veteran for a copy of their claims folder is considered a Privacy Act request, which must be responded to in a reasonable amount of time. A request for records from someone other than the subject of those records is a Freedom of Information Act request, and requires a response within 20 working days. Our normal response is a letter to the requestor notifying them we have received their request.”

    I am puzzled by his response, and wonder if it truly represents official VA policy. Do you have any observations? I very much appreciate all the work you are doing on behalf of us older Vets from the Vietnam era.

    thank you,
    Dan A.

    Reply
    • Chris Attig

      Dan, The VA’s belief that the Privacy Act covers “first party” requests is not the law; it is one of those things that the VA says that is flat out untrue.

      Moreover, the VA has made the rules applicable to timely processing of requests made under the FOIA also applicable to requests made under the Privacy Act in several places:

      1) VA Benefits Assistance Service Manual, (M27-1, Part I, ch 7, §1(d))
      2) VA Adjudication Procedures Manual Rewrite (M21-1MR), part II, ch 7, §1(d)
      3) VA Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act (PA) User Guide
      4) VA Fast Letter 10-10, Appendix A, p. 6 (Apr 8, 2010);
      5) Frequently Asked Questions about the Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act, VA Fast Letter 08-13, Enclosure 1, p. 1-2 (May 15, 2008)(rescinded Apr. 8, 2010, and replaced by VA FAST Letter 10-10, cited above).

      Which VA Regional Office FOIA officer is telling you that (specifically, out of which VA Regional Office)? We’ll send them a letter putting them on notice that they are misadvising Veterans of the law of the FOIA and Privacy Act.

      Chris

      Reply
      • Dan A.

        Thank you for your prompt answer, Mr. Chris Attig. As an older veteran of the Vietnam era, I am grateful that I have the opportunity to learn from a forceful, educated advocate such as you.

        In response to your question, I have copied below the entirety of an email I received from the “Privacy Officer” at VA Regional Office, Oakland, California (dated July 2, 2014).

        I think the second paragraph of the email copied below is most pertinent to our current discussion. It spells out what I must assume is the official policy of VA Regional Office Oakland in terms of a 20-business day response time to a FOIA request.

        Today is July 15, and I have not yet received a copy of my C-file. My FOIA request was sent by certified mail, return receipt requested. I have documentation that it was signed for at VA Regional Office, Oakland on April 28, 2014 — approximately eleven weeks ago.

        Apparently, VA Regional Office-Oakland does not feel obliged to follow the “20 business day” rule that your blog alludes to!

        I would be fascinated to read your reaction to the email copied below, particularly to the second paragraph. I am presently left to interpret that paragraph to mean something along the lines of “hurry up and wait, old-timer.”

        Again, my thanks for your insights. Here is the email from VA Regional Office, Oakland, California:

        “I am the Privacy Officer for the VA Regional Office in Oakland, CA. I was contacted by the VBA Privacy Officer in regards to your request for a copy of your claims folder. I searched for your request, but was unable to locate it. Please fax a signed copy to me at (510) 637-6248, and I will have it processed immediately.

        For your reference, a request from a Veteran for a copy of their claims folder is considered a Privacy Act request, which must be responded to in a reasonable amount of time. A request for records from someone other than the subject of those records is a Freedom of Information Act request, and requires a response within 20 working days. Our normal response is a letter to the requestor notifying them we have received their request.

        If you have any further questions, please contact me.

        Bruce Fouche’

        Privacy Officer

        And Records Management Officer

        343/24B Oakland, CA

        (510) 637-6205

        Reply
        • Chris Attig

          Dan,

          Thanks for sharing. Just so that the rest of your know, Mr. Fouche’s interpretation about FOIA and the Privacy Act is not only wrong, it is exactly the opposite of what the VA’s official policy says.

          We will write him a letter – when I do, I will share it in a post.

          Chris

          Reply
  6. melissa masse

    Good afternoon,
    I just wanted to let you know that some of the information you have posted here on your website isn’t entirely correct. I live 5 miles from the VA Regional Office and am a VA employee…working right next door to the Regional Office. I went to the Regional Office in person to request a copy of my C-file and was told it would be 4-6 months due to over 7000 back logged requests. Yes. Seven thousand, with “only two people working FOIA requests.” So, going in person doesn’t really help either. I’ve been writing my sentator and congressman in hopes for assistance. I need my records to avoid unneeded medical procedures that I had while serving on active duty. I need my results. Unfortunately, I am facing having to undergo several invasive procedures, costing the government thousands of dollars…all because I can’t get these test results to my current doctor.

    Reply
    • Chris Attig

      Melissa,

      You are correct – many VA Regional Offices have wait lists for in-person viewing of the C-File. Some of them are quite long. This really is something that you can do on short notice only at a small handful of Regional Offices.

      I recently posted about one Veteran that showed the Federal Circuit the games that some Regional Offices play when it comes to “in-person” viewing of the C-File. Take a read, it was posted earlier this week.

      My Firm uses the process outlined in our eBook – How to Get Your VA C-File. It’s the only “reliable” way we have found to get the C-File quickly and, if we can’t, we sue in Federal District Court to get the files.

      I am deeply saddened by an agency that cannot do this simple administrative task easily. Veterans have so much on the line – sometimes medical care issues like in your case – that the Agency causes more harm to the lives of people than I think it ever realizes.

      To them, it’s just paper. To us, its our lives, our health, and our ability to put food on the table.

      CA

      Reply
  7. Richard Guy

    I am a Vietnam veteran. I am dealing with the Indianapolis VARO with a 70% IU for PTSD. I was denied in 2011, and filed a NOD in early 2012. The appeal will be with a DRO. On March 26, 2014 I had a C&P exam.
    I am registered with myhealth.va.gov. Within 3 days the entire C&P exam was posted on this site. I printed it out just in case they decided to take it down. Incidentally, the psychologist who administered the exam did a report that was extremely favorable to me. She said that her brother was a Vietnam Vet, and that she really understood where I was coming from.
    Thank you for what you are doing for veterans.

    Richard Guy

    Reply
    • Chris Attig

      Richard – I’m glad you had a positive experience with this Regional Office. Keep us posted on how it goes!

      And if there is anything that we can share that will have MORE Vets have an experience like yours, let me know!

      Chris

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.