Overcoming the VA’s New DBQ Policy

Sleep Apnea DBQ

Last week, the VA announced that it would discontinue the use of public-facing Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) – meaning that it would no longer make DBQs available to the general public on its website. DBQs are standardized forms completed by medical providers that outline the severity of a condition.With a completed DBQ, a veteran could provide essential medical evidence towards their increased rating claim and (more importantly) contradict an unfavorable Comp & Pen report.  

Prior to last week, the VA’s website hosted links to DBQs for various medical conditions. Without access to these DBQs, what options are still available in a veteran’s fight for a higher rating?

Get Creative

The VA says that its Comp & Pen examination system is now widely available, which minimizes the need for DBQs. But that process is often flawed and results in evidence damaging to a claim. For veterans with an unfavorable Comp & Pen report, some consider paying for an expensive Independent Medical Opinion (IMO) to support their case.

As another (more affordable) option, veterans can recreate the success of a DBQ with a letter, written by their own medical provider, describing the extent of their condition.

In any provider letter, the following information should be included:

  1. Identification of the provider’s credentials (e.g. “I am board-certified ______”)
  2. How long the provider has treated you, and the scope of treatment
  3. The symptoms associated with your medical condition, including:
    1. Frequency
    2. Severity
    3. Impact on daily activities (including work)
    4. Effect of medications
    5. Prognosis, if applicable

For authenticity, each letter should be on the provider’s office letterhead and include a signature and contact information.

Maximizing the Effectiveness of a Medical Provider Letter

To increase the value of any provider letter, you must tailor the above framework to the VA’s Diagnostic Code – the manual that VA personnel use to rate conditions. Many conditions have an specific Diagnostic Code containing criteria for ratings. For example, Migraines is listed as Diagnostic Code 8100, which looks like this:

For a veteran with a 0% rating seeking a higher rating for migraines, it is important that any provider’s letter mentions the frequency of the migraines and whether they are prostrating.

Working with your medical provider to tailor these letters to the VA Diagnostic Code is most effective because  it mirrors what DBQs are designed to do.

Your Fight For a Higher VA Disability Rating

With some proactive research and a helpful provider, disability letters can help win your VA claim for an increased rating. Even if the VA orders a Comp & Pen exam anyways, a well-written letter can help sway a Comp & Pen examiner whose opinion can make or break your case.

Don’t wait for the VA to obtain an unfavorable Comp & Pen report – take charge of your VA case with a provider letter today.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at kcraveiro@roblevine.com


This entry was posted in C&P exams, Diagnostic Codes (DCs), Guest authors, Lawyering Up, Uncategorized, VA Attorneys, Veterans Law and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Overcoming the VA’s New DBQ Policy

  1. Cedric Satterfield says:

    Public DBQ’s were discontinued because they are rife with fraud, courtesy of manipulistic doctors that fill them out remotely (violation of M21) or coach you, and then rubber stamp them. Those doctors are all over the internet- just google. They have your money, and can no more guarantee you a win than any other doctor you see locally, and probably cheaper.

    III.iv.3.A.4.b. Categories of Examinations for Which the ACE Process Is Prohibited
    The ACE Process (acceptable clinical evidence, basically, a remote C and P) is not available in the following categories of examinations:

    examinations when necessary electronic medical records are not available for examiner review
    Separation Health Assessments (SHAs) in support of IDES and BDD claims
    general medical examinations
    initial and review traumatic brain injury (TBI) examinations, and
    mental disorder examinations.

    Exceptions: The ACE Process may be used to
    resolve requests for clarification of, or addendum to, an SHA where the service member’s previous General Medical – Separation Health Assessment Disability Benefits Questionnaire was completed in person, or
    complete individual specialty and/or specialist DBQs for pre-discharge contentions, provided the
    service member’s General Medical – Separation Health Assessment Disability Benefits Questionnaire was completed in person, and
    other exclusion principles discussed in this block are not applicable.

    VBA may also specifically require an in-person examination, but in the interest of expediting the claims process, RO employees should not routinely exclude the use of the ACE Process absent a compelling reason, particularly for
    homeless Veterans, and/or
    the following conditions:
    hearing loss
    cardiac conditions
    amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and
    any terminal condition.

  2. Clark Edward GIBBS says:

    The Veterans Administrations does not read your response throughout, to assure that a comprehensive review is likely, submit your arguments with as few paragraphs as you can.

  3. Kiedove says:

    I just read about this online. Has anyone archived these 70 + forms? They have removed them most likely not because of fraud but because they were helping veterans’ doctors write better IMO using the forms as a guide and/or filling them out so well, they we having to honor them in the vet’s favor.
    Because they forms were created with public funds, they are in the public domain. Anyone should be allowed copies if requested. Now they are “secret” non-public facing documents. Give me a break. If you want a form, and the VA refuses to release one, try contacting your Congressman’s staff and ask them to get it for you.
    In the meantime, you have provided a good workaround, until the VA puts these public works back into the public space. They are a useful guides for laypeople, medical professionals, veterans and people who submit claims for clients. That is why VA pulled them.
    I’m also wondering if these now hidden forms are available in a book or workbook format.

    • kcraveiro says:

      Hi Kiedove, I’m also very frustrated by the VA’s choices here. I know that you also write for AskNOD–are you a Claims Agent with VBMS access? These forms are still accessible on VBMS — otherwise known as the VA’s intranet. So yes, the public is now unable to access the most recent version of these forms, but any representative with VBMS access can find them. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help the folks that are doing this on their own.

  4. As for The “C and P” exam, my attorney advised me earlier this past week that he had been advised there was a moratorium on All C and Ps due of course to Covid19. We especially found this amusing since his sighting on his VACOL(?) software suggested our Appeal at the BVA from the CAVC of course was due for Decision or at least last review of same record/s. Since the new C and P was a cornerstone of our moving onto hopefully a Grant, this presents a unique problem. Since we are on a Docket, things are about to get interesting in this fifteen year old claim/appeal.

  5. sherry7006 says:

    My husband passed away October 2019 after six years receiving medical care under the VA. As it turns out, three months prior to his passing he was hospitalized at an out of VA care hospital (Thanks to Obama approving the “Choice Program”) for five days. A month later we get his medical report from that hospital and it stated very clearly “Ischemic Heart Disease”. I called the hospital and asked why nothing was said while there. They said they thought we knew because that came from the VA. So, how did VA know this but not tell us? Well, my husband also had COPD and that’s what they wanted his cause of passing to be noted as. My husband drug himself to the VA and filed a claim. They immediately granted him 10 percent. I was informed via our local VA office that it was up to me to be sure that heart disease be listed on his death certificate at the very least as a secondary condition. It took some real melt downs on my part as the funeral home was passed to six different docs that refused to sign off. Two weeks later, I happen to reach out to the hospice doc and he only agreed to sign off due to this two week delay and he listed that heart disease as secondary cause. Long story I know but I just wanted to point out another way VA Docs let down our Vets. You dont get this heart disease overnight. I filed DIC and it was granted as I think they got caught with their pants down.

    • Kiedove says:

      Sherry, So sorry to hear about your husband. You have been through a rough time.

      • sherry7006 says:

        Thank you kiedove, it has been the hardest thing I think I’ve ever been through. The ending was like being put through a blender but my baby fought to the very end and wasnt about to let the VA do this to him without consequences as that hidden diagnoses answered so many questions as to his VA care. It seems to be getting worse for so many Vets with rule after rule being flipped making it even harder for our Vets and family in receiving earned VA healthcare and let us not forget those who have diagnoses listed on their very own government paper. Seems all smoke and mirrors. What could we expect now with the VA run via under the table Maralogo boys, I wouldnt have expected anything less.

  6. Calvin Winchell says:

    Seems that due process and law is slowly going by the wayside! The government is doing whatever they want now? Making the rules and changing the rules to suit themselves? Everything is getting watered down?

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