So what will you find in your C-file? You will usually find all your correspondence with the VA and the claims that you have made. You will also normally find your DD 214 and military medical records. You will also usually find your entrance and separation exams. You should also find any C&P exams performed on you. There is very little structure to the C-file. They can be extremely large and require a great deal of time to go through every page. Unfortunately, you must go through the entire file and read every page. If you do not think you have the ability or knowledge to do this than find a representative or lawyer who will. I have often found very important pieces of evidence in the middle of many pages that don't seem relevant at all to your claim. On a few occasions, I have seen one page of a report at the beginning of the file and the rest of the pages of the report scattered throughout the rest of the file. When you review your file you should take notes and tab the pages that are important to your case.
I do this by scanning the entire file onto the computer and then I use Adobe to bookmark important pages while I make notes on a separate Word document. This may seem like a lot of work, and it is, but you have to look at it from the view of the person who is deciding your claim. The person at the VA who is deciding your claim has a huge caseload with each file he or she has to look at numbering hundreds of pages each. Chances are if you review your own file and take notes and you are able to present your case as briefly as possible, you can make it easier for them to find in your favor by pointing out exactly in the file the evidence that is favorable to you. The easier you make their job the better chance you have of winning your claim.
If after reviewing your file, you find that there is important information missing you should request the VA obtain the information. You should also try and get the information yourself if you have the means to do so. Often times, you will not find in your file your military personnel records which includes things like how you performed in your duties, what your unit did, and any awards and decorations. You will also probably need to update the medical information in your file.
You may also want to seek to get nexus letters or reports from your present treating doctors. You may also want to request a C&P exam if your particular case calls for one or more. Looking through the file and not finding medical records you know should be there or records that you sent in that are not in the file is the easy part. Knowing what evidence you need to get to give yourself the best chance to win can be the more difficult task. This is where professional help can make a difference. Not everyone needs a lawyer or representative to get the benefits they are seeking. If you review your file and become knowledgeable of VA law you will be able to assess whether it is something you can handle or something that you need help with.