VA and DoD Streamline Disability Claim Exam Procedures
When an active duty service member transitions out of the military and back into civilian life, there are several standard appointments to attend before the final out-processing date.
Troops who file VA claims for disability benefits have previously been required to attend two claim examinations, one for the VA and one for the Department of Defense. The two exams are redundant as the VA admits, and steps were taken to eliminate that redundancy.
Why Two Disability Claim Examinations?
The Department of Defense has required its own Separation Health Assessment when troops retire or separate. Part of the justification for that requirement was making certain the military healthcare system meets the service member’s needs before they leave the military.
Did the service member need dental care before separating? Were there any medical issues being treated that may need continuing care? The Separation Health Assessment was designed to address these types of concerns.
The VA official site notes that it also requires “a similar separation examination” for those filing VA disability claims using the Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) program or the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES).
The Department of Veterans Affairs notes, “These two different-but-similar exams are redundant.”
Related: Do You Need Help Filing a VA Disability Claim?
Developing a Single Process
The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs teamed up on a project to create a single examination that can be used by both the VA and DoD.
The results of that project?
- On May 1, 2023, the Department of Veterans Affairs introduced a new Separation Health Assessment Disability Benefit Questionnaire (Parts A and B).
- The new questionnaire allows “both subjective patient histories and objective clinical evaluations,” according to VA.gov.
- The form replaces DoD Forms 2807-1, “Report of Medical History,” and 2808, “Report of Medical Exam,” for documentation of Separation Health Assessments “required of service members at separation”.
- The new forms also replace the VA Separation Health Assessment.
The Department of Defense will use the same common form starting in 2023; a “DoD Only” portion of the common form meant to “streamline the disability claim process, reduce redundant examinations, and ensure medical assessments for those separating from service are more accurate and complete.”
Related: VA Disability Pay and the Benefits Delivery at Discharge Program
What to Know About VA Disability Claim Exams
Not everyone is required to have a VA claim examination. The Department of Veterans Affairs will require one, “only if we need more information to decide your claim.”
Do you feel you have enough medical evidence in your file to support your VA disability claim? The VA uses something known as “the Acceptable Clinical Evidence (ACE) process,” which allows a medical records review but requires the VA to ask you “to submit more evidence if needed, instead of asking you to have an exam” under the appropriate circumstances.
You may need more than one VA Claim Examination if you meet any of the following:
- You are submitting claims for more than one condition
- Some conditions may require follow-up exams or review exams.
- Review exams allow the care provider to determine whether the severity of your condition has changed since your last exam.
- You have requested a VA review of an earlier disability claim decision.
You may qualify for travel reimbursement if you have to travel to attend a VA Claim Exam. Did you know the VA offers reimbursement of:
- Regular transportation, such as by car, plane, train, bus, taxi, or light rail
- Approved meals
- Approved lodging expenses
- File a claim online through the Beneficiary Travel Self-Service System (BTSSS).
If you have a VA Claim Exam with a contractor, VA.gov states, “The contractor will pay you back for travel to and from the exam. If you don’t get a travel payment from the contractor within 14 days after your appointment, call the contractor.”
Who Qualifies for General Health Care Travel Reimbursement?
Veterans and caregivers may both qualify depending on the circumstances:
If you travel for care at a VA health facility or for VA-approved care elsewhere, at least one of the following must apply:
- You have a VA disability rating of 30% or higher
- You’re traveling for treatment of a service-connected condition
- You receive a VA pension
- You have an income below the maximum VA pension rate
- You can’t afford travel
- You’re traveling for a VA claim exam, to claim a service dog, or for VA-approved transplant care.
The VA may pay for caregiver travel for these appointments if one of the following applies:
- A family caregiver under the National Caregiver Program travels to receive caregiver training or to support your care;
- The person is your medically required attendant traveling with you to support your care;
- The person is your transplant care donor or support person.
VA.gov advises they also pay for care “for an allied beneficiary when the appropriate foreign government agency has authorized their care, or for the beneficiary of another federal agency when that agency has approved their care.
Travel Expenses the VA Reimburses
- Travel to a VA health facility nearest to you “that can provide the care you need.” If your VA care provider recommends an option farther away, “we’ll reimburse the cost of travel to that facility.”
- Non-VA health facility travel is only reimbursable when the VA approves the care in advance, “except in certain emergency situations.”
The VA May Reimburse You for the Following:
- Mileage to and from your appointment
- Plane fares
- Public transportation fares
- Transportation by ambulance or wheelchair van
Read more: VA Disability Pay Rates
About the author
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.