Your claims file, c-file, claims folder or any other name that may be used is the collection of papers and documents that are somehow related to your VA records.
It is a paper record usually kept in a sort of cardboard folder. Because it is paper, and because many c-files contain very old paper, the c-file is likely to contain damaged papers, or even papers that should be in other veterans folders. Papers often
are lost as folders are transported place to place.
There isn't any particular standard for the way your c-file is arranged. If your c-file is extensive, papers may be jumbled out of order for dates or events. The typical c-file is challenging to comprehend.
You should request your c-file today. It may be a year before
you get your copy. There is no better way to study your claim and just what has happened to it than to get a complete copy
of your c-file.
As with almost everything else we recommend here at VAWatchdog, we strongly recommend that you request your copy of your c-file in writing, in a brief letter sent as certified mail, return receipt requested.
Many attorneys today ask that the veteran retrieve a copy of his/her
Claims File (C-File) from their VARO prior to the
attorney accepting the
case of an appeal.
If you're a veteran, whether you have started a claim or not, you should take the time to gather and organize all your records.
You may begin at the NPRC. If you have civilian medical
records, get the copies now.
There is no substitute for advance preparation. If you should need to
make a benefits claim tomorrow or 10 years from tomorrow, planning for
it today will ensure that the process will be simpler for you.
What is a C-file, why it’s important to your claim for VA Compensation Benefits and how to use it to help you win?
This article will be about the importance of your C-file, why you need
it, and other evidence you may want to get to put into this file. One of
the reasons I am writing this article is because many of the veterans
who have come to me for help with their claims do not know what a c-file
is or why it is important to their claim. I have had veterans come to
me after years of appeals and they never saw their own c-file. I will
first explain what your C-file is. I will then discuss what you can
expect to find in your C-file. I will also discuss what will probably
not be in your C-file that may be important to your case.
All of your evidence that the VA attains or that you got for your claim
is kept in your C- file. It is extremely important to get this file by
requesting it from your local regional office and to review it
thoroughly. The VA will base its decision on the evidence that is in
this file. Many veterans assume that the people making the decisions at
the VA are making that decision with all of the evidence the veteran
assumes they have. Even if you provide the VA with all the necessary
information including dates, medical facilities you were treated at,
where you were serving, the unit you were in and other information
requested by them you cannot safely assume that the VA got all the
information necessary for your claim. Most of you are aware of the VA's
duty to assist. However, I can tell you it is very rare that all the
information that can help your claim will be found in your file. If you
leave it up to the VA to get all your evidence to prove your claim you
do so at your own risk. By getting a copy of your file you will be able
to see exactly what those who are going to decide your case are looking
at to make their decision.
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.
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.
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.
I will now talk
about some types of evidence that can be helpful for your claim that you
may or may not have considered. If you're trying to get unemployability
and you are currently on Social Security Disability benefits then your
Social Security Disability file can be important to your claim. This is
particularly important when you were found disabled by Social Security
for the same medical conditions that you are service-connected for. The
VA is not bound by this evidence but it is strong evidence in your
favor. Also in regards to unemployability claims, you may also want to
include documents regarding your job history, much of which can be found
in your Social Security records.
In claims for unemployability you may
also want to consider getting the opinion of a vocational expert. For
all type of claims you may want to consider getting statements from
family and friends or people you served with. These statements can help
in different ways for different claims. They can sometimes help prove
an incident or give a better picture of how your condition affects you.
A letter or e-mail to someone back home while you were serving can help
to verify an incident or help prove you were somewhere that you say you
claimed to be but there is no record of (a letter from a base in
Vietnam to home to show you were in Vietnam for example).
There is no
limit to the different types of evidence that could help your claim and
often times even with the help of a lawyer or representative only you
will know of some piece of evidence that you may have lying around or
that you can get that will help you win your claim.
What you should take away from reading this article is your need to
request by certified mail from your regional office your C-file and
service medical records, review every page, take notes, determine what
is missing and what additional evidence you need to get to win your
claim. You then need to take all this information and explain as briefly
as possible why you are entitled to the benefits you seek and point out
the evidence in the file that is favorable to your claim.
to make the person deciding your claim's job as easy as possible to find in
Lastly, if you find this overwhelming or even if you're
unsure seek help with your claim.