VA Claims Folders, the infamous C-File, things have changed
We can not stress enough how important it is to: View your VA Claims Folder at the Veterans Affairs regional office (find your Regional VA Office here) Call the VA at 1-800-827-1000 and request an appointment to view your C-File (VA Claims Folder).
Ensure that all the records in your VA Claims Folder or C-File are yours.
Check that everything you have sent to the VA is included in your VA Claims Folder.
After viewing your VA claims folder (c-file) and correcting any mistakes you may find, you should request a hard copy of your C-File.
If you’re having a difficult time obtaining your VA Claims Folder from your Regional VA Office, you can file a written Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request. See below for more information on FOIA requests.
When you apply for disability benefits, the VA creates a claims folder. Information you send to the VA, records the VA obtains on your behalf, and documents created by the VA are all in this folder. The claims file is commonly referred to as the “C-file.”
Requesting Your Claims File
If you have been denied disability, you will want to obtain a copy of your VA Claims file to obtain information that will help you in filing your appeal. Request it from the VA Regional Office where you submitted your claim for benefits. If you do not receive it in a timely manner, make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the file. For more information about filing a FOIA request, see Nolo’s article on obtaining VA records. You are entitled to receive one copy of your claims folder for free.
Typical Documents in a VA Claims Folder
When you receive your VA Claims Folder, don’t be surprised if the documents are somewhat disorganized. Also, there may be several copies of documents even though you really only need one copy. It can take awhile to sort it all out. If you want some help with this, you may want to find a VA disability attorney to assist you.
Here are some basic documents you might find in your C-file if you have applied for VA benefits. This is not an exhaustive list but merely a description of the most common and important documents you should find in your file. If any of these documents are missing, you will want to obtain them. (See Nolo’s article on obtaining VA records for more information about how to do that.)
DD-214, Report of Separation From Service
This is a very important document. It includes information about your character of service, which can determine your eligibility for benefits. Your DD-214 will also include your dates of service, specialties, any medals received, and other information about your term(s) of service.
Application for Benefits
Any applications for benefits that you have previously made should be included in your C-file. This can be important if you did not keep copies before submitting an application.
Denial Letter, Ratings Decision, and Code Sheet
If you have been denied benefits, there should be a letter in your file notifying you of the decision to deny you benefits. Until recently, the VA also issued detailed ratings decisions explaining why benefits were granted or denied, and why certain ratings were assigned to service-connected disabilities. Now the ratings decisions do not provide much information and tend to be quite brief.
There should also be a code sheet accompanying the ratings decision. The code sheet contains information related to the ratings decision, such as the diagnostic code that was used to assign the disability rating. It also provides information about the effective date of benefits and whether a future reexamination will be required, as well as additional details about the decision.
If you are going to hire an attorney, one of the first things they will ask you for is a copy of the denial letter, ratings decision, and code sheet.
Service Medical Records
You may find copies of your service medical records in the file, if the VA requested these while gathering information to decide your claim. An important document in these records is the report from your enlistment examination. This exam report contains information about whether you suffered from certain medical conditions at the time you entered service.
VA Medical Records
Your file may contain records from the VA Medical Center where you receive treatment, but it may not. Or, it may contain an incomplete set of your medical records. You can request your medical records directly from the VA Medical Center by requesting them in person or over the phone.
Compensation and Pension exam
Another document a lawyer will want to see is a copy of your compensation and pension exam report. This is the exam you went to where the VA doctor evaluated your disabilities and made a recommendation to the Veterans Benefits Administration about whether or not your disabilities were service connected.
Service Personnel Records
Your file may also include copies of your active duty personnel records. This will include information about where you served, copies of certificates for medals you received, performance evaluations, and other information.
Appeal Documents in a Claims File
If you have already filed an appeal and had an appeal denied, the following documents may be in your C-file.
- The Notice of Disagreement you filed, telling the VA you disagreed with their decision.
- Statement of the Case, a document describing in detail how the conclusions in the ratings decision were reached.
- A transcript of a hearing before a Decision Review Officer (DRO) or the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA), if you had a hearing.
- Information about your representative or attorney (if you had one).
Regarding FOIA Requests
As of September 19, 2011, the Department of Veterans Affairs will accept FOIA requests electronically.
If you have a FOIA request that relates to the Department of Veterans Affairs — Office of Acquisition and Logistics — Procurement Policy and Warrant Management Services, please submit your requests to our FOIA electronic mailbox.
ALL other FOIA related information, as it relates to the Department may be accessed at the VA’s FOIA web site. Please read all applicable sections including but not limited to; “How to Submit a Request”, “Fee Information”, and “How to appeal a FOIA request”. FOIA information as it relates to the VA is also contained in a downloadable Requesters Reference Guide.
The Department of Veterans Affairs maintains a collection of documents that are available electronically on the Internet. These public records include VA statements of policy, staff manuals, as well as high-profile records that have been previously requested by another member of the public and is likely to become the subject of another FOIA request. It is likely that the information you seek has already been made available on the VA FOIA reading room.
You may view an index of records that have already been requested by members of the public via the VA FOIA Reading Room Frequently Requested Records section.
The OAL FOIA contact is Mr. Richard Ha.
Access a complete listing of the VA’s FOIA points of contacts and FOIA electronic mailbox addresses on the VA FOIA web site.
From the VA’s Website:
VA Form VA-3288 Request For and Consent to Release Information from Claimant’s Records This is a fillable online form so you can type in your answers and then print it out. I recommend printing out 2 and save 1 copy undated and unsigned so if you have to use this form again make a copy sign and date it and put your original away again in case you need it. I recommend this for all forms. 05/12/2014 You can search for any VA form you need here.
Additional Form Resources:
- Request for DD 214 or other Military Records NARA SF 180
- GSA Library of Standard and Optional Forms
- DD Forms Department of Defense Forms Program
- SGLI/VGLI Insurance Forms (including SGLV8286)
- All US Government Forms https://my.usa.gov