Remember when you were in the military and your commanding officer or staff NCO threatened to “write you up” because you failed to get your vaccination or resolve another medical issue near deployment time? Back then, you didn’t have to be as proactive with your medical appointments because safety nets were in place (thanks to your gunny/first sergeant/senior master sergeant/chief petty officer!) to make sure you made it to sick call.
The transition from military to civilian life can make remembering to attend your scheduled medical appointments a little tricky – especially if you’re in the middle of a job search or attending college for the first time. However, it’s important you know that making your scheduled VA exams is essential to accurately processing your claim. VA assesses your exam results when determining service connection for your claimed medical condition. These medical examinations are scheduled by VA and are performed by either a VA physician or contracted physician. It’s important to note these exams aren’t always required to evaluate your medical conditions; however, in instances when they are needed, it’s important that you make every effort to show up!
During my time as a Veterans Service Representative, I would periodically see cases where a Veteran failed to report to his or her medical appointment. While we certainly understand that life can get in the way, missing an exam can have huge ramifications to your benefits to include:
- Denial of your original or reopened claim, or claim for increase. When you fail to report for an exam, your claim will be rated based on the evidence available in your record. This could be detrimental to your original claim because the exam results could provide the necessary evidence needed to satisfy service connection. In reopened claims, the exam results may provide the new and material evidence needed to overturn a prior VA decision or, in the case of a claim for increase, show that your condition has worsened.
- Reduction or termination of your current benefits. When you fail to report for a reexamination of a running entitlement, VA, under law, is required to issue you a notice that proposes to either reduce or terminate your monthly benefit if an examination is needed to maintain a current rating.
- Delay in the decision of your pending claim. Examination requests are in high demand. Rescheduling can delay the processing of your claim and a final decision from VA.
In order to avoid these potential pitfalls, follow these simple tips:
- Keep your scheduled exam whenever possible.
- Can’t make it? Tell VA immediately by phone, online, or in person. We may be able to reschedule your exam date.
- Make sure your address and phone number is up-to-date in eBenefits. VA will attempt to notify you of an exam by letter and telephone. I’ve personally seen countless amounts of returned mail because applicants moved without notifying VA. The easiest and quickest way to update your address and telephone number is through eBenefits.
More information on this topic can be found in 38 Code of Federal Regulation 3.655.
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