Request a copy of your C-File (Claims Folder) – 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.
Documenting your claim, below is my system for going through service medical records.
First thing I do after receiving a service medical record is number each page when I get to the end I go back and add 1 of 100 and so on.
Second I then make a copy of my service medical records on a different color paper, yellow or buff something easy to read, but it will distinguish it from the original.
I then put my original away and work off the copy.
Now if you know the specific date it’s fairly easy to find.
If on the other hand you don’t know specifically or you had symptoms leading up to it. Well this may take some detective work and so Watson the game is afoot.
Let’s say it’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome (your diagnosis)I would start page by page from page 1, if the first thing I run across an entry that supports my claim for IBS is on page 10, I number it #1, I Bracket it in Red, and then on a separate piece of paper I start to compile my medical evidence index . So I would write Page 10 #1 and a brief summary of the evidence, do this as you go through all the your medical records and when you are finished you will have an index and easy way to find your evidence. Study your diagnosis symptoms look them up. Check common medications for your IBS (your diagnosis) and look for the symptoms noted in your evidence that seem to point to IBS (your diagnosis), if your doctor prescribes meds for IBS (your diagnosis), but doesn’t call it that make those a reference also. 38 CFR 3.1(D) Veteran means a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable. There’s more so make sure to read the regulations.
Were you diagnosed with an illness/injury in the service?
Is your current diagnosis and/or for that problem?
Was it documented in your service medical record?
Do you currently have a diagnosis that you think is related to your service?
Do you currently have a diagnosis, that though existed before service was aggravated by an illness/injury in service?
Can you link the aggravation to the illness/Injury in the service?
Information may be in your:
Service Medical Records
Hospital Records (Generally not included in Service Medical Records and may require on FOIA directly to that hospital.)
After Action Reports
Conversations with buddies
Incident Reports you were involved in or witnessed
TIP: Also you can have a rubber stamp made with your full name social security number and address use this stamp at the bottom or top of each page you submit to the Veterans Affairs if it gets lost it will be easy to see which page goes to which claim.
VA Claims File, the infamous C File. We can not stress enough how important it is to: View your VA Claims File 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 File).
Ensure that all the records in your VA Claims File or C File are yours.
Check that everything you have sent to the VA is included in your VA Claims File.
After viewing your VAClaims File (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 File 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 file. Information you send to the VA records the VA obtains on your behalf, and documents created by the VA are all in this file. The claims file is commonly referred to as the “C 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 file for free.
Typical Documents in a VA Claims File
When you receive your VA Claims File, don’t be surprised if the documents are somewhat disorganized. Also, there may be several document copies even though you only need one. It can take a while 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 rating decisions explaining why benefits were granted or denied and why certain ratings were assigned to service-connected disabilities. The rating decisions do not provide much information and tend to be brief.
There should also be a code sheet accompanying the rating decision. The code sheet contains information related to the rating decision, such as the diagnostic code that was used to assign the disability rating. It also provides information about the effective date of benefits, whether a future reexamination will be required, and 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, rating decisions, 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.
Records pertaining to veterans who have been discharged and have no remaining reserve commitment, veterans who have retired, or veterans who have died are available at the National Archives and Records Administration, National Personnel Records Center, and Military Personnel Records (NPRC-MPR).
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.
Best Practice Request your medical records directly from the VA Medical Center by requesting them in person or over the phone.
Compensation and Pension examination
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 recommended to the Veterans Benefits Administration whether or not your disabilities were service-connected.
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 rating 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).
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.
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 in the VA FOIA reading room.