Tell me if this experience sounds like yours. You file a claim for PTSD, and after sending a ton of information to the VA about your PTSD Stressor, they finally schedule you for a VA PTSD C&P Exam. You bust your butt to make it to the appointment on time, and 10 minutes later, the exam is over. Seems like all the Examiner cared about was whether you were having nightmares and what happened to you before – or after – you entered military service.
If that sounds like your VA PTSD C&P exam, there’s a good chance that you are about to get a bad decision either denying your PTSD service connection claim or denying you the PTSD impairment rating or effective date that you want.
Thankfully, by following the Veterans Law Blog®, you have learned some things over the past few weeks, months and years, and now that there are some really powerful ways to avoid – and possibly fix – bad PTSD C&P Exam Results.
A Common VA PTSD C&P Exam Story.
Let’s take a look at a common experience for veterans who have been scheduled for exams for PTSD claims and appeals. See how quick you can see why things went south in this veteran’s PTSD Claim.
Spoiler Alert: it all started with bad PTSD C&P Exam Results.
In May 2008, a Navy Veteran with 10 years of exemplary service is directed for a psychological exam by his command after a series of alleged disciplinary issues.
After a 7 hr exam by a Navy Psychologist, the sailor was diagnosed with an Adjustment Disorder, and was administratively discharged from the military.
Fast forward to November 2008 – the veteran files a claim for service connection of the adjustment disorder.
In the course of that claim, the VA sends the Veteran to what appears to be a diagnostic Compensation and Pension (C&P) Exam.
The VA C&P examiner skimmed over the C-File, and snidely opined that the veteran did not have an adjustment disorder, and that what he experienced in service was just “normal issues that individuals go through”.
As a result of this opinion, the VA Regional Office issued a VA ratings decision that denied the claim for lack of a diagnosed disability.
[Author’s note: If I had a nickel for every time a VA C&P Examiners made a dismissive comment like this about a mental health condition, I’d have enough nickels to get 10 hours of counseling to deal with the anger I feel when people devalue other people working to improve their mental health.
Mental health is no different than physical health – things in the human body sometimes need medicine and science to heal, but when its the mind, people get their boxers all bunched up about paying VA benefits for psychiatric disabilities or think its something to be ashamed of.
Bunch of BS is what that is, in my opinion.]
The BVA added insult to injury by continuing the denial, without addressing the medical diagnosis of PTSD that the Veteran received from the Navy Psychologist.
This is the where the CAVC stepped in.
In a non-precedential opinion, the Court concluded that:
1) The BVA erred in excluding evidence. (namely the Navy Psychologists examination and diagnosis);
2) The BVA erred in relying on the VA C&P opinion. The CAVC was rather critical of the C&P Examiner, saying the following
“The examiner’s bare recitation of the facts of the appellant’s prior diagnosis is insufficient rationale to allow the Board to make a fully informed decision,”
“The examiner’s mere acknowledgment of the May 2008 diagnosis without any further analysis results in an opinion that is neither thorough nor detailed.”
“Without an indication, positive or negative, that the recently diagnosed psychological disorder resolved itself or was incorrectly diagnosed, the VA examination is inadequate as a basis for the BVA’s decision.”
Bottom line for Vets before the BVA and the CAVC:
You Are Going to Have to Fix Bad PTSD C&P Exam Results.
I’ve not found a single part of the Department of Veterans Affairs that is interested in fixing bad PTSD C&P Exam results. Fact of the matter is they are happy with bad VA C&P exams.
VA PTSD claims are among the most common types of VA benefits claims filed, and, well, the VA has become quite skilled at finding new ways to unlawfully deny them or refuse to help a veteran. Their goal is speed, not helping the veteran reintegrate.
In my not-so-humble opinion, I believe bad exams are the #1 reason that more veterans are not rated 100 percent disabled by PTSD.
And with the BVA crapping out 80,000+ decisions a year (that’s less than 1 minute per judge per appeal on your VA PTSD appeal), its unlikely that the BVA cares about bad VA PTSD C&P exams either.
Step #1: Prevention is the Best Solution.
Most Veterans websites give some pretty crappy advice to Veterans going in for PTSD C&P Exams.
They say things like: don’t shower, don’t shave, weary messy clothes and tell the doc about the nightmares you are having.
Crappy advice will give you crappy PTSD C&P Exam results. So don’t pay so-called “VA claim insiders” your hard-to-come-by money for crappy advice. I mean, how much of a “VA claim insider” can you be if you don’t even know how to get accredited?!?
There are concrete steps you can follow to prepare for a C&P Exam. And I mean REALLY prepare – the way I teach my clients to prepare.
Here is the first in a 3 part series of posts about preparing for your C&P Exam.
In the near future, I plan to release a Training Video to teach you how to fully prepare for your VA C&P Exam. (Click here to see what Training Videos are currently available – remember, if you subscribe to the Veterans Law Blog® you get FREE access to all training videos.
Step #2: Counter with an Independent Medical Exam Opinion.
If you get the PTSD C&P Exam Results BEFORE the Decision, consider this option. Seek out a private medical examiner to counter the VA doctor’s opinion.
It’s not enough to get a different opinion.
The opinion you get has to review not only your PTSD C&P Exam results, but also your entire C-File, and make a cogent and supported explanation why the VA PTSD Examiner got it wrong.
So to take this approach, you are going to need at least 3 things: a copy of your C-File, a copy of your PTSD or mental health treatment medical records, and a copy of your PTSD C&P Exam results.
I hope you followed my suggesting and got a copy of your C-File BEFORE you went to the C&P Exam…but if not, now is a good time to get it.
After all, if you are going to OWN your VA Claim, you ought to know exactly WHAT you own, right?
Click here to find out how to get a copy of your PTSD C&P Exam Results so you can find out what is in your C&P Exam report.
Step #3: File a Notice of Disagreement.
This post started with the story of how the Court took action to fix the problems in a Veteran’s PTSD claim.
For that Veteran to get to Court, he had to file an appeal, and work his way through the VA Claims Process – either the Legacy Process or the new AMA Process.
Whatever appeal track you are on, file your appeal correctly.
That means that you should be sure to challenge the legal competency of the PTSD C&P Examiner and request a copy of their credentials – the VA almost never gives those out, and will often choose to grant a claim before they have to reveal which of their C&P docs are assaulting female veterans or drinking on the job.
The C&P exam is critical to the success of a VA PTSD claim. Make sure you pull out all the stops in challenging the VA’s exam if you get a VA medical opinion that just doesn’t sound right.