One of the most important factors in winning a claim or appeal for VA disability compensation benefits is developing medical evidence in support of your case. There is virtually no way to get your disability claim approved without sufficient medical evidence to support your claim. In this post, I put together some tips about developing medical evidence in support of your VA claim or appeal.
Every case is different, but I recommend the following general tips to help you develop the evidence needed to win your case:
Consider the following steps to boost your chances of winning your VA disability compensation claim.
Make every effort to collect all military, private, and VA medical records and make sure they are submitted to VA in support of your claim.
Military Medical Records
As a general rule of thumb, when you file a claim, the VA will obtain and associate with your claims file all your military medical records. You can make sure the VA has all your service treatment records by obtaining a copy of your claims file and a copy of your military records. You can request a copy of your VA claims file by calling VA at 1-800-827-1000 and you can obtain a copy of your military records by completing and submitting an SF-180 form.
Knowing what’s in your service treatment records can help you craft a claim for VA disability benefits that has a higher chance of being granted.
VA Medical Records
Again, the VA will automatically obtain all your VA treatment records when you file a new claim, as long as you tell the VA at which medical centers you received treatment.
If you want your own copy, you can obtain it from the VA medical center where you receive treatment or you can download an electronic copy from an online VA portal known as MyHealtheVet.
Private Medical Records
If you are receiving private medical treatment that relates to the medical condition for which you are seeking service connection, then you are going to want to give those records to VA.
You can obtain private treatment records by requesting them from your private healthcare provider, and many private providers also have online portals from which you can download the records.
Alternatively, you can complete and submit a VA Form 21-4142 to the VA, which is a medical release form that gives the VA permission to obtain your private treatment records. Be advised that the VA won’t pay private providers for treatment records, so if your provider won’t give them for free to the VA, then you will have to obtain the records yourself.
Finally, if your private doctor believes your disability is related to service, have them write so in your medical record. They need to use the language that it’s “at least as likely as not” that the disability is related to the military, and then provide a short explanation as to why they believe that.
Compensation and Pension (C&P) examinations are crucial for any VA disability claim. As long as there is a reasonable chance that your claimed disability is related to the military, the VA will schedule you for a C&P examination. There, the VA examiner were diagnose you, describe the severity of your disability, and give an opinion as to whether it is at least as likely as not that your disability is related to military service.
Obtain written statements from anyone who knows you and your conditions. Buddies may include your co-workers, friends, spouse, parents, people you served with, or your children. In these statements, your buddies can explain how the disability affects you (for instance, it’s difficult to hear, squat, or bend). A good buddy statement will describe how you were injured or what symptoms they witness.
Finally, you can write your own written statements, also called lay statements. Lay statements can be extremely valuable, and they are way for you to get directly into the record what you are experiencing in your own words. Oftentimes, VA examiners will not put into the record everything you tell them, so a lay statement is a good way to protect against that.
It is often necessary to get an independent medical opinion in order to win your appeal for service connection. A good attorney will work with reputable medical experts to draft a favorable nexus opinion. For the VA to accept the independent opinion, the expert must state that they reviewed the relevant records from the VA claims file, and they must provide clear rationale, with citations to the record, as to why the disability is related to military service.
Sometimes it is not easy to show the connection between your active service and a disability because the issue is complex or because the VA examiner isn’t uptodate on medical science. In such cases, you need to obtain an independent medical opinion (IMO). One of my main tasks as a VA disability attorney is working with medical experts to draft a nexus opinion that is well-supported by the record and medical science.
The term Duty to Assist refers to the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs’ obligation to help you develop your claims. The Duty to Assist requires VA to help you collect evidence and information to prove service connection, including obtaining your medical records and providing you with a C&P examination and nexus opinion.
Gregory Rada is an Air Force veteran that helps veterans nationwide receive the benefits to which they are entitled. He works with all his clients one-on-one from the start of their case to the end and never hands them off to case managers or paralegals. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.