The importance of obtaining copies of private medical records from providers while you are being treated can’t be stressed enough. Ever wonder why a Veterans Service Organization (VSO) or the VA will have you sign a “Release to Obtain Information” at the initiation of the claim process and at various other times such as when a “new claim” is filed? Let me share a story, some have heard this one or, walked the same path and, some may be hearing it for the first time. When my husband filed his initial claim back in 2003 he signed a slew of these releases at the request of his former VSO. The entire claim package is sent to the Regional Office who then sends these releases to every doctor you authorized the VA to obtain information from about your medical care.
Many doctors hold onto these releases because they know being paid for the time to copy records, the envelope, postage, nada isn’t going to happen from the VA because they are not required to pay for them. Luck would have it if your health care provider is either a Veteran themselves or a kind-hearted soul who is willing to go the extra mile for patients; this is not always the case. One of the several releases originally signed by my husband was returned to the VARO stating “never saw this patient.” Interestingly, I had a receipt showing our payment to said doctor who then agreed to release the records to our hot little hands directly.
Which led me to think….hmmm, if this doc wasn’t willing to pay a staff member to copy the records, what other doctors might not be willing to copy records, either in a reasonable period of time or, at all? That was the all-important day the decision was made to obtain all private medical records ourselves. Every provider who we have requested records from has been more than happy to provide them to us and when the doctor is told why we need them, they are even more than happy to mark it “no charge.” They know the VA isn’t going to pay their office for the time to copy patient medrecs. It’s a much different situation if an attorney requests records, they know they will be paid and many docs request payment before they send the records out. Many docs agree, why not give them to the patient when the patient requests them? And, let me say this…the in-between time is cut drastically when the patient requests the records verses the VA requesting them. VA isn’t going to wait forever to receive medical records, and if they aren’t going to pay the docs to copy them, what is the incentive to the docs to pay their staff do so in a timely manner? Without evidence to back up your claim, your claim is not worth (as AskNod describes it) the 81/2 x 11 blank sheet it’s printed on. Get those records yourself, be kind and courteous and here is a little tip:
It also helps if your doctor is a Veteran which forms a personal connection between patient and doctor. Wearing a baseball cap that proudly states, “Vietnam Veteran” or “US Marines” helps out also ~ I don’t know why, but in all the years my husband has seen one particular provider (who is also a Veteran)…the docs compassion for care instantly changed when my husband started wearing one of his many caps to appointments. Nothing wrong with a subtle reminder about the connection the doctor and patient share – they both served their country after all.
If you have a pending or new claim, it is strongly recommended that you, the claimant, obtain your own medical records evidence to submit to VA (make sure you keep a copy) if you know the VARO doesn’t have them in their hot hands…why wait for VA or anyone else to obtain something for you…? You are your strongest advocate and no one (except perhaps your significant other) has a more vested interest in your claim. This eliminates several months of delay while the VA tries to obtain your private medical records. If you can, do it yourself and save those several months of waiting. Another big plus is if you send them yourself to the VARO with a “Certified Mail/Return Receipt Requested” – you know what date they arrived at the VARO.
Not all medical providers are as willing to help out a Veteran, so please don’t feel left out because of our good fortune in obtaining my dear husband’s medical records; we would have gladly paid for them if requested. The assurance of knowing the VARO would have the evidence needed in front of them for proper adjudication of his claim was far too important; without it, there was no chance at all.
Ed. note: After many years, we have Azeejensmom back. She, as most may not recall, set sail on her free college education provided by Uncle Sam in the DEA grant. She’s been at it for several years now. Along the way, she has helped her husband attain much including SMC S and continues to fight for more. Tombo was one of the few (3) who had to go to DC to get his ticket punched by VA. They weren’t granting in Seattle and Azeejensmom was still learning this in 2008 when our paths crossed. They live near us (relatively) and we are fast friends to no small amazement. We have much in common and little discord. I think the most strident Tombo has been with me was once he asked whether I were playing by summer rules, winter rules or some new classification of heretofore unknown “Blizzard” rules that might explain my improving my lie so drastically.
Ladies and gentlemen Vets, please welcome her. She has as many years under her belt as I do and a much higher rating that continues to go up. Look up tenacious in the Seattle VARO dictionary and I’m sure you’ll find a picture of her.