One of the first steps you should take before you begin your appeal is to obtain and organize your C-file. For those of you that are new to the veteran’s claims process, a Claims File, or C-file, is the file that is supposed to contain all of your medical information from your first medical exam for enlistment at the MEPPS station, up to and including your last medical exam prior to discharge from the military, as well as any additional records that you have provided to the VA from private doctors.
It is of the utmost importance that you know what is and is not in your C-file prior to filing your appeal. The most common documents found in your C-file are your DD-214, previous applications for claims, denial letters, rating letters, code sheets, military service medical records, VA medical records, medical records from private doctors (if you provided them), C&P exam records (compensation and pension) as well as your military service records. This list is not all inclusive and some documents may or may not apply to you depending on where you are in the appeals process and whether or not this is your first appeal.
Your C-file is one of the most important files used to establish your medical claim for VA disabilities (Fully Developed Claim or FDC) because it is the only file the VA will look at in making determinations about your claim. As we are all way to familiar with the short comings of government bureaucracies, you will want to make sure the VA has all the information that you have in consideration of your claim. The only way to make sure is to request and receive a copy of your C-file and organize it; but beware: it will very likely come to you as if it spent some time on a black-jack table in Las Vegas!
Prior to receiving your C-file, make a list of the particular disability or disabilities you are claiming or disputing. After you have received your C-file you will notice all of the 500-5000 pages are in no particular order. First, make sure the records you received are YOURS! When I first requested my file, I received records for another service member with a similar name, but in a totally different branch of service! Second, you should number your pages 1- XXXXX, in the order that you received them. This will help you reference them to the VA representative, DRO (decision review officer), or to any of the Judges during any of the future hearings you will be attending as they will likely receive your file in the same order you received them.
After you have numbered your documents, separate them according to their classifications mentioned above, i.e. C&P exams, VA medical records, private doctor medical records, military service records and so on. After that is completed, take those records in their respective piles and place them in chronological order. Once you have all your piles separated by classification and in chronological order, you should then pick out each document evidencing any of your particular claims as to your specific disability and group together any duplicates and triplicates. For example, in a claim for hearing loss you will want to pick out all of your military medical records and private doctor records related to hearing tests, treatments, doctor visits, complaints, prescriptions, etc. Additionally, you will want to pull any documentation that could possibly link your hearing loss to your military service. For example, any records showing that your MOS (military occupational specialty) could have played a part in your loss of hearing, such as, infantry, machine gunner, artillery, aircraft repair or maintenance – basically any military occupation with an inherent environment that could contribute to hearing loss.
Once you have your C-file organized, NOW you can begin building your claim and find out what records are missing and get those records to the VA to be included in your file.
Jeffrey W. Smith The Orlando Law Group, P.L.
*This article is meant for educational and informational purposes only and not as legal advice. This article does not establish or imply an attorney client relationship between the author of this article and the reader. The author of this article is NOT representing you as your attorney. You are advised to contact an attorney for legal advice related to the specific facts of your case.