Throughout the course of your initial claim or appeal, the VA may order you to go to a Compensation & Pension (Comp & Pen) exam. The VA orders these exams to obtain an opinion about the cause and severity of your condition. These exams can be conducted either at the VA or by a contract examiner (a private company like LHI, VES, or QTC), and last anywhere between 10 minutes to multiple hours.
Getting a favorable opinion from a Comp & Pen exam is the key to your case! A favorable opinion (often called a positive “nexus”) can provide you with the medical evidence you need to service connect most claims.
Unsurprisingly, the VA usually falls short in providing an adequate exam. A lot of examiners fail to review your file, spend enough time with you to properly evaluate your symptoms, or make unfair assumptions about your medical history.
Here’s some things you need to know to maximize your chances of getting a positive nexus from any examiner:
• The examiner will be observing you very closely, including your body language and tone of voice.
• Do not assume that the examiner has fully reviewed your claims file. It is your job to educate them on the cause and severity of your disabilities.
• Remember that “a closed mouth never gets fed,” or “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Be honest and detailed about what happened to you in service as well as your symptoms.
For mental health exams,
• When the examiner asks you “how are you doing,” that is a question about your current mental state! Do not say “fine” or “good” if that’s not the case.
• Be detailed about the in-service stressor that caused your mental health condition. Give dates, locations, people involved (if you remember the names), and the circumstances of the stressor.
• If applicable, be sure to emphasize that you were in good health prior to service, and that you’ve consistently had mental health symptoms since your in-service stressor.
For physical exams,
• Most physical exams involve the measurement of your joints’ range of motion. Make sure:
o You STOP immediately when the movement becomes painful. The point that you begin to feel pain is where the examiner should document the end of your range of motion.
• Be detailed about the specific in-service injury that caused your physical condition, or how your MOS caused your disability over time. Give dates, locations, and the circumstances of the injury.
• If applicable, be sure to emphasize that you were in good health prior to service, and that you’ve consistently had physical symptoms since your in-service injury.
After the exam, the examiner will draft a report that will be uploaded to your claims file. Be sure to get a copy of that report! Call the VA benefits hotline (800-827-1000) to request a mailed copy. Stay tuned for tips on attacking inadequate Comp & Pen exams – coming soon!
P.S. I would like to introduce my audience of Veterans to the author of the above article. Kelsey Craveiro Esq. will be one of our new contributing authors. Ms. Craveiro is the Managing Veterans Disability Attorney at Rob Levine & Associates in Providence, New Jersey. Welcome aboard, Ms. Craveiro.