The Veterans Administration C-File & You
The C-File (short for Claim File) is all of the evidence that the VA uses to make its decision on how your claim will be rated. So if you disagree with the VA’s determination and file an appeal, you will need to request a copy of your C-File. You should do this as soon as you’ve received your initial determination. Since the VA has made its decision based on what’s in there, it’s a good idea for you to have it and see the exact basis for that decision.
What is in a C-File?
There’s no set structure to a C-File but there are certain things that should be there. These include:
All of the correspondence between you and the VA regarding your claim.
Your DD-214 form.
Your military and VA medical records.
Any private medical records you submitted.
Your entrance and separation exams.
Any Compensation & Pension (C&P) exams performed on you.
The VA’s ratings decision and statements of the case.
As the C-File is the basis for the VA’s decision making process, this is your opportunity to make sure everything you want them to know about your claim is in there. It’s possible that a particular piece of evidence that supports your position slipped by your VA case reviewer. It’s even possible that such a piece of evidence is actually missing from your C-File. Consequently, reviewing your own C-File enables you to assess whether it was a simple oversight, a missing or misfiled piece of evidence, or whether additional evidence is needed.
How to get your C-File?
You have a few options on how to get a copy of your C-File. The simple answer is, “Ask for it,” and the best way to ask for it is with what’s called a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request There’s no specific form for a FOIA request but you need to do it in writing and you must sign your letter of request. A FOIA request must reasonably identify what you’re seeking–in this case, all documents contained in any VA claims folder for you that exist in both physical and virtual/digital form. You should put your VA claim number near the top of the letter so the VA can identify which C-File is being requested. You should specify that you want hard copy of everything. Finally, you need to include your contact information, including your phone number.
The FOIA request needs to be sent to the Veterans Benefits Administration Regional Office FOIA/Privacy Act Officer. When sending something to the VA, it’s always a good idea to: (a) keep a copy for yourself; (b) send it in a way that provides proof of delivery (e.g., certified mail with return receipt requested).
If you are getting representation..
If you’re considering getting representation (whether with an attorney or through a veterans service organization), we strongly recommend that you provide your C-File directly to your representative. While it may be tempting to go through it and start rearranging things, an experienced representative will know how to correctly manage this. Considering the wide range of documentation that should be in your C-File, it can get quite large and complicated. Since the goal is now to make it easier for the VA to approve your appeal, it’s critical to find the right pieces of paper among those reams to help your appeal move forward. A qualified Veterans’ Benefits attorney can help with that.
So, take responsibility for your record keeping. Maintain a copy of your C-File. Remember, your C-File is the very core of your VA claim and appeal.
We recognize that this process can become a bit overwhelming for some. Whether you’re trying to figure out exactly how to get your C-File or what to do with it once you’ve gotten it–or if you need to find the piece of evidence to help the VA approve your appeal–we at The Law Offices of Maurice L. Abarr are ready to provide you with the help you need. Contact us for a free case evavluation.