How Much Weight Does a C&P Exam Have?

When you file for VA disability, you’ll likely be required to consent to a Compensation and Pension exam. A C&P exam is often a vital part of the claims process. The VA can order a C&P exam whenever it deems one appropriate.

Key Takeaways
  • A C&P exam is a crucial step in the VA disability claim process, often determining the claim’s outcome by evaluating the service connection of conditions.
  • Though not the sole factor in a claim’s decision, the exam’s results significantly influence the VA’s final determination and the subsequent disability rating.
  • Negative C&P exam outcomes can be contested through various means, including obtaining a private medical opinion or submitting a Notice of Disagreement.

But how much weight does a C&P exam have? The VA considers several factors in determining VA disability benefits.  Since this test is one of the key factors the VA uses to decide your claim, you should take it seriously.

What Is a C&P Exam?

The VA sometimes requests a C&P exam as part of the VA disability claim process. The purpose of the exam is to evaluate the claimed condition and determine if there is a service connection. 

The C&P examiner is usually a VA staff member or a contracted physician. This professional must be qualified to examine the claimed condition, meaning an internist or cardiologist can’t evaluate a mental health condition

Before the exam, the physician may order diagnostic tests and will review your existing records. During the exam, the physician may ask you questions and perform a physical examination. The examiner will also collect the evidence needed to assign a disability rating if the VA accepts your claim.

When Is a C&P Exam Required?

The VA will order a C&P exam when more information is needed to evaluate your condition or establish the connection between service and the claimed condition. In general, the VA most often requests exams for the following reasons:

  • Analyzing discrepancies in the records
  • Answering questions regarding the diagnosis
  • Verifying the link between your service and the claimed condition, also known as a nexus
  • Supplying additional information to ensure an appropriate rating
  • Evaluating a change in rating for a previously approved claim

Technically, a C&P exam is not required in every case. However, if the VA requests one, you must attend. Failure to do so will certainly impact your claim decision.

How Much Weight Does a C&P Exam Have?

It’s a common misconception that a C&P examiner will decide your claim one way or the other. While the C&P exam holds significant weight in the ultimate ruling, it is not the only thing impacting the VA’s final determination.

It might be tempting to go into a C&P exam with a plan to persuade the examiner to accept your claim. This typically isn’t a successful strategy and could even harm your claim. Instead, be as honest and forthcoming as possible during the exam. Describe your conditions and symptoms thoroughly and detail how they have impacted your daily life. 

Remember, the examiner won’t decide your claim. However, the information they provide could be the deciding factor when the VA evaluates your claim. The VA will also use the examiner’s opinion to calculate your disability rating, which impacts the monthly VA disability payments you’ll receive.

How Long Does It Take to Get a VA Rating After a C&P Exam?

C&P exam results are available fairly quickly. If a VA doctor performed the exam at a VA facility, the results will usually be in your VA medical records online within a week. If your exam was conducted at a private facility by a contracted physician, your exam results will be uploaded to the Veteran Benefits Management System, usually within a few weeks. 

The one- to two-week turnaround is only an estimate, not a rule. The factors that can affect the turnaround for a C&P exam report include the complexity of your claim, the need for additional medical evidence, the VA’s current workload, and whether or not the exam is for an appeal.

Showing Emotion During a C&P Exam

Many veterans file disability claims for mental health conditions such as anxiety and PTSD. The VA will often order a C&P exam to evaluate how your mental health condition is service-related as well as the ways it impacts your daily life concerning personal, work, and social settings. 

It’s not uncommon for veterans to experience strong emotions during a C&P exam as they are revisiting stressful or traumatic experiences from their time in the military. A response such as crying is nothing to be ashamed of and can even be a vital component in relaying the impact of your condition to the examiner.

What Is a Favorable C&P Exam?

How do you know if a C&P exam went well? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as straightforward as you would hope because the examiner won’t issue a decision. Rather, they apply their expertise to the evidence presented and give their professional opinion with statements such as the following:

  • “At least likely as not” – This means there is a high probability that your disability resulted from your service. 
  • “Less likely than not” – This means there is a high probability your service and disability are not connected. 

The first statement would be considered the more favorable of the two. Getting a C&P exam report with this language could support a VA disability rating approval, but it is only one piece of the puzzle. 

You can sometimes tell if a C&P exam went well based on the examiner’s attitude. In general, a positive attitude from the examiner could mean they have reviewed your medical records and are confirming much of the information they’ve already gathered about your service-connected disability.

What To Do if You Get a Negative Exam Report

A C&P exam opinion carries significant weight. A negative outcome will probably hurt your chances of getting VA disability benefits. For example, any medical document stating your disability isn’t service-related or as severe as you claim will be given some weight by a VA adjudicator. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean your claim will be denied.

If you receive a negative exam report and believe you have a genuine disability, there are things you can do to address this issue. We recommend you take several actions.

1. Order a Copy of the Report

If you didn’t receive a copy of the C&P report initially, ask the VA for one. You can do this by sending a letter to your Regional Office

2. Get Your Own Medical Opinion

Nothing prevents you from getting a private medical opinion, which the VA will weigh alongside the C&P exam. How much weight your medical opinion has will depend on factors such as the physician’s specialty and the thoroughness of their report. You can make a strong case for VA disability benefits approval with a credible medical opinion from a private health care provider and proof of ongoing treatment for your condition.

3. Submit Buddy Statements

Something else that can strengthen your VA disability benefits claim is buddy statements. These are letters of support from laypeople such as family members over 18, friends, and co-workers, who can testify in writing about your symptoms, how your condition has impacted your life and ability to work, and its connection to your time in the service.

4. File a Notice of Disagreement

If your initial C&P exam result isn’t what you hoped and it results in a claim rejection, submit a Notice of Disagreement. The form will be included with your claim decision. You can specify what you disagree with and explain why you believe the C&P examiner’s evaluations were incorrect. You have one year from the date of the decision notice to file a Notice of Disagreement.

5. Ask for the Examiner’s Credentials

You can also ask the VA to provide the C&P examiner’s credentials to confirm the examiner was qualified to issue an opinion and challenge their competency if they were not.

6. Request a Second C&P Exam

You can also ask the VA for a second C&P exam. When they agree to a repeat, this is usually a good sign. The VA generally requests an additional C&P exam to resolve any errors or omissions in the first exam. However, if you already have a disability rating, the VA Disability 5-Year Rule protects veterans by preventing the VA from requiring a reexamination unless there is substantial evidence of fraud or medical improvement. 

While an unfavorable C&P exam result might seem like a major problem, you can strengthen your initial claim using other strategies. You also have recourse if your claim gets denied. 

The VA disability process is complex, and it can get frustrating without guidance. Contact Veterans Guide to get connected with an experienced VA claims attorney for help with getting your VA claim approved.

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