Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs)

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Posted on: Wednesday, May 08, 2013
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Dear Jim,

I am a service officer in New York & I'm a Disabled Veteran. I agree with you that DBQ's are, at best, a mixed bag. However, I have had some success with them in the past 18 months. They tend to work better if you can get a VA Doctor to complete one at a VA Clinic or VA Hospital and if the claim is simple. For example, A Vietnam Veteran who served "In Country" and now has Type II Diabetes caused by Agent Orange. This is a presumptive claim and a DBQ for DMII is likely to speed up the process a great deal.

However, a more complicated claim like a Service Connection claim For ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis ) is not likely to be helped much by a DBQ. I do know that the VA is contacting doctors to verify the DBQ's.

I have also had a VSR call my office and ask me to get a DBQ completed for a Veteran and fax it to him. We did and the Veteran got a very favorable result in a timely manner.

What has been your experience with DBQ's? What have you heard from other Vets and/or Service Officers?

Thank you for your time. Have a great day.

CVSO

The above message inspired me to ask an expert.

I wrote to a friend who is an RVSR...a senior "rater" who is one of the many good people at your VARO who is working hard to get your claim right.

This "rater" is one of the many resources we use at your VAWatchdog to ensure that we get our intel right. Rumors or misinformation won't help you.

VAWatchdog delivers the facts that can make a difference to your claim...and your life.

Jim

Dear RVSR,

I'm getting a fair amount of feedback on the Fully Developed Claim (FDC) process. The comments run about 50/50, negative or positive.

However, the FDC process seems to be gaining traction with some advocates.

If you have any thoughts to share, I'd enjoy hearing them.

As we consider the FDC process, does adding a DBQ bring value?

If a veteran is in my recommended mode of DIY his/her own claim, how does the veteran submitted FDC get attention at the RO? Our impression of the receiving process of claims at each RO veries a bit but mostly it seems chaotic and scattered. Does an FDC really get any particular attention?

Thanks.

Reply:

With the current focus on working old claims, the Fully Developed Claim (FDC) is the best way to go as it is considered a high priority claim to be worked with the older claims and not after the old claims are worked. There were problems with the FDC program early on because there was some confusion as to what “fully developed” meant. We are still in a learning curve here but the process is much clearer since the most recent fast letter and the change of the forms to “ez”.

FDC claims are “flashed” when they entered into the system and tracked closely. RO's are reminded regularly that FDC claims are priority and some of my Veteran co-workers have used them (with DBQ's) and gotten their claims adjudicated within weeks, not months.

An FDC claim is one where the Veteran acknowledges he or she has received VCAA notification (now called 5103 notices), has submitted all of the evidence he or she has and waives the 30 day period VA usually has to wait before rating the claim. Unless the Veteran submits some medical evidence with the claim, he or she may have to undergo a VA examination which will delay the claim somewhat. There is also some other development that is allowed under FDC but keep in mind that even with a priority claim, the more work VBA has to do, the longer that claim is going to take to get done. This is where the DBQ comes in.

The DBQ's that are available to the private sector are much simpler documents than those used within the VHA system. They are designed to align with the rating schedule so that RVSR’s can more easily assign an evaluation. There was a time when raters were requesting examinations even when DBQ’s were submitted but it was mandated some months ago that unless the DBQ appeared to be altered in some way it is to be accepted and used for rating purposes unless there a credible reason such as the need for a medical opinion.

What the DBQ frequently does not do is establish the nexus which is why a VA medical opinion (C & P exam) might be required. For example, the Veteran is diagnosed with a knee strain in 1980, gets treated twice that same year, is released from active duty in 1986 and the separation examination shows no residual knee problems. He sends in a DBQ in 2013 that shows a diagnosis of arthritis in 2012 of that same knee. Unless the provider writes somewhere on the DBQ that the arthritis of the knee is progression of the strain, you can bet that a VA examination will be ordered to get a nexus opinion.

Nexus opinions are a large percentage of the reason why examinations are ordered because there is frequently a gap of many years between the time of the injury and the time of the claim. If the arthritis was diagnosed in service, there would be no need for the nexus opinion no matter how many years have passed.

There are times when private treatment records are as effective as a DBQ but most of the time the private records do not include the information needed to rate a claim according to the rating schedule. Examples of this include notes on joints with no ranges of motion or mental health records without the multiaxial assessment, including GAF score, cardiac treatment records with no ejection fraction or METS. In these cases, an examination would be needed which is why the DBQ works best. Using DBQ’s takes the pressure off of the Veteran to figure out what to send in. I have seen Veterans send in lab results, bills, etc. None of this is useful information.

I will give you some idea of when treatment records are just as good as a DBQ. If the Veteran is service connected for arthritis of the knee and undergoes a knee replacement. The hospital or surgical summary is good. This holds true for just about any condition already service connected and surgery is performed. Newly diagnosed cancer claims that are still in the active stage. ALS claims.

Because most of the claims we see these days are so very complicated, RVSR’s (at least those in my office) love to see FDC’s or claims that can be rated quickly as they are a refreshing break.

I'll get back to you soon with more details about what excludes a claim from FDC.

Now, read up on the details about...

Fully Developed Claims http://benefits.va.gov/transformation/fastclaims/

Disability Benefit Questionnaires (DBQs) http://www.vawatchdog.org/C___P__DBQ_s.html

 Documentation of Medical Evidence for Disability Evaluation Purposes http://www.scribd.com/doc/139031298/Documentation-of-Medical-Evidence-fo...

This Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Directive defines policy for the useof Disability Benefit Questionnaires (DBQs) to provide medical information for disability evaluations or examinations for eligible Veterans in support of the disability compensation process.

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