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  • Establishing VA Service Connection for Disability

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    VA Claims Folders, the infamous C-File 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.

    Suppose you need help obtaining your VA Claims Folder from your Regional VA Office. You can file a written Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request in that case. 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."

    Source: Nolo

    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 file your appeal. Request it from the VA Regional Office, where you submitted your claim for benefits. If you do not receive it promptly, request a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the file. For 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 need to be more organized. Also, there may be several documents, even though you only need one copy. 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 essential 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 still need to be included, 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 an essential 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 do not keep copies before applying.

    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 issued detailed rating decisions explaining why benefits were granted or denied, and specific ratings were assigned to service-connected disabilities. The rating decisions provide little information and tend to be brief.

    There should also be a code sheet accompanying the rating decision. The code sheet contains information about the rating decision, such as the diagnostic code 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 hire an attorney, they will ask you for a copy of the denial letter, rating 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 essential document in these records is the report from your enlistment examination. This exam report contains information about whether you suffered from certain medical conditions when you entered service.

    VA Medical Records

    You can request your medical records directly from the VA Medical Center in person or over the phone.

    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 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 is 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).

    Regarding FOIA Requests

    As of September 19, 2011, the Department of Veterans Affairs will accept FOIA requests electronically.

    If you have a FOIA request related 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 website. 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 related to the VA is also 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, and high-profile records previously requested by another member of the public. They are likely to become the subject of another FOIA request. The information you seek is likely already available in the VA FOIA reading room.

    You may view an index of records members have already requested 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 contact and FOIA electronic mailbox addresses on the VA FOIA website.

    VA Regional Offices

    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 print them out. Print out two and save one 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. Issue Date: 05/12/2014 You can search for any VA form here.

    Additional Form Resources:

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