The following is written from a VA Compensation and Pension Examiners perspective relating to psychiatric exams. It is a good guideline for all exams but I only did psych exams. I’ve been examined by the VA for multiple problems and this is my format when I go to be examined. A little common sense and clarity of thinking will go a long ways towards getting you what you are entitled. Written by: Steve A. Neff MSW
This person is going to judge you. It’s his/her job and that is why you are there. To be adjudicated fairly. How would you like to be remembered? A skuzzy stereotypical veteran? Or a troubled one who is doing the best he/she can?
Do not talk about alcohol or drug related issues. You are not there to be assessed for those problems. You are there to be assessed for your psychiatric functioning as today relates to your service history. If the examiner asks about alcohol or drugs, politely remind them that you are not there for those issues, if you’ve ever had them, but for how impaired you are in your daily functioning. It’s best to avoid even talking about them.Got a VA horror story? I can tell you a worse one. Don’t waste your time with how badly you believe you’ve been mistreated. The examiner only has a short time to figure out how impaired you are and they need the facts. In coherent, concise, sentences, and not rambling rants that lead nowhere.
Answer the questions to the best of your ability. If you don’t know say so.
This is nearly a no brainer but be honest. Don’t embellish your stories with fanciful tales. Just the facts please. Be able to document everything you tell the examiner. You may run into someone like me who checked stories out. If possible have letters from people you served with, unit diary copies of incidents that occurred during your time and space, and letters from family members. Family member letters usually don’t add a lot of weight to your case because families are there to support you and examiners understand that.
If sleep is a problem for you don’t sleep the night before. Go in on the ragged edge of tired out. But do your best not to be rude and insensitive. Payback in a VA Compensation and Pension exam is you lose. Not all examiners are that way but I have met a few that should not have been examiners.
When responding to examiners you need to pick the worst moment of time relating to that question. You need to be rated for the worst times you have had. I always picked a really bad day and related all of my answers to that day. The day I could not sleep, was anxious and startled easily, was grouchy to my wife and friends, felt like my heart was coming out of my chest, and nothing went right for me. That day should have been in the last 30-90 days. If it was a year ago you may not need to be having this exam. The questions you are being asked are on a script in front of the examiner. After examiners do this for a while they get a sense of what is in front of them. It’s not too difficult to determine when someone is flat-out lying and when they are struggling with memory. The above does not mean that examiners cannot be scammed because they can be.