Submission of private treatment records and private medical opinions:
Independent Medical Opinions by your private physician:
An Independent Medical Opinion (sometimes referred to as an "IMO")from a treating physician is in many instances a critical part of a veteran’s disability compensation claim. An IMO may sway the “benefit of the doubt” in favor of a veteran’s claim, or it may actually be the missing ‘link’ or nexus in a claim. When a veteran asks his or her physician to compose an IMO, there are a couple of things that should be noted in it. One of most important things that should be done and mentioned in the IMO is that the medical professional has reviewed the entire medical record including the veteran’s STR’s. The medical professional should also state his or her area of expertise and additional training. For example, if the doctor is board certified in radiology, they should state that; especially when rendering any comments in regards to radiological film studies. Also, it is very important that the physician give their rational as to why they have come to a certain conclusion. The physician, when giving his/her rational, should also cite any relevant medical literature that may support the findings. By doing all of this, the IMO becomes probative. There is also certain language the physician needs to use when opining whether or not the disability(ies) at hand is/are related to the veteran’s service. The following phrases are from the Department of Veterans Affairs “Clinician’s Guide for Disability Examination;”
"is due to" (100% sure)
"more likely than not" (greater than 50%)
"at least as likely as not" (equal to or greater than 50%)
"not at least as likely as not" (less than 50%)
"is not due to" (0%)
The phrase “at least as likely as not” is the legal phrase that is needed for VA to award service-connection for a particular disability based on the “Benefit of the Doubt” when an IMO should be the deciding factor in the evidence of record.
Note: Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t send any medical articles printed from the internet. They only pertain to the general population and aren’t afforded very much weight when they are being evaluated by the decision maker. The VA needs something from a doctor that states your disability(ies) are related to your service, not something meant for the general public.
Private medical records from non VA/DoD facilities:
If you have been treated for your claimed disabilities by a private (non-VA) doctor or facility since your discharge, it is imperative that you obtain these records and submit them as evidence. By submitting these type of medical treatment records, it shows VA that you have had continuity of treatment since discharge (possibly establishing the needed "nexus" to military service) and shows VA the current symtoms of the diagnosed condition. If you're unable to obtain these types of records, for whatever reason, you may be able to have VA obtain them for you. To do so you'll need to submit VAF's 21-4142 and 21-4142a.
The Disability Benefits Questionnaire:
In addition to any actual private treatment records you may have, you also may have your private physician fill out and sign the appropriate Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ);
Please keep in mind that by submitting a DBQ for your claimed disability, this may not result in VA using it to actaully evaluate your condition. More than likely than not VA will still schedule you the appropriate C&P anyways to verify these finds through one of their own physicians.