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Ask An Expert: Preparing for Your C&P Exam

Ask An Expert: Preparing for Your C&P Exam

About Our Expert

Jeffrey Garbelman is a licensed psychologist and co-operator of Watertown Psychological Assessment, LLC, which assists veterans in all matters of mental health and veteran benefits. As a former VA C&P Psychologist and consultant for the Milwaukee Regional Center, he has offered medical opinions on over 250 veteran mental health Disability Indemnity Compensation claims and over 1,500 mental health Compensation and Pension claims. He has also published two articles on mental health and veteran compensation examinations in the Journal of Psychological Injury and the Law.

We asked him:

“How should a Veteran prepare for their C&P Exam and get the most out of it?”

The purpose of a C&P examination is to understand how your health issues are impacting your life, such as with family, friends, or at work, and determine when these issues began. This information helps the VA determine if the disability is service-connected and how to rate it. Because of this, it’s best to prepare thoroughly to get the most you can out of the exam.

Psychological examinations are often emotionally challenging and stressful, especially in cases of trauma. It can be difficult to recall events or give an accurate description of how it is impacting your life. Understanding the process and knowing what to expect will make it easier to prepare ahead of time.

In this article, we’ll go through the general process of a C&P exam for mental health issues, as well as what you can do to prepare for one.

Knowing What to Expect

A psychological C&P exam will include the following:

  1. Initial Interview: The examiner will typically start by asking about your background. This may include questions about your family history, educational background, and employment history. They may also ask about your military history, specifically focusing on any traumatic events or experiences.
  2. Symptom Discussion: You’ll be asked to discuss your symptoms in detail. The examiner may ask questions about when your symptoms first started, how they have changed over time, and how they impact your daily life. It’s crucial to be as honest and thorough as possible when discussing your symptoms.
  3. Psychological Tests: Depending on the nature of your condition, you may be asked to complete some psychological tests. These could be questionnaires or structured interviews designed to evaluate certain types of mental health conditions.
  4. Mental Status Exam: This is a structured assessment used to evaluate your cognitive function. The examiner will observe and note things like your appearance, attitude, behavior, mood and affect, speech, thought processes, thought content, perception, cognition, insight, and judgment.
  5. Daily Functioning: The examiner will ask about your ability to manage daily activities, such as personal care, chores, and work. They may also ask about your relationships and social interactions.
  6. Treatment History: You’ll be asked about your history of mental health treatment, including any medications or therapies you’ve tried and how effective they’ve been.

During your exam, help the examiner understand why you believe those mental health issues started in the military and why you think your current mental health issues are a continuation of those symptoms.

How You Can Prepare

One of the best ways to give the examiner a full picture of your situation is to think about the following questions before your examination: 

  1. Psychologically what changed during your time in the military? 
  2. How did you feel? 
  3. Why was this different than how you felt prior to service? 
  4. Did those feelings and changes continue after military separation? If so, describe them. 

Better yet, write them down as a Statement in Support of Claim and submit them before the examination. 

Think about how your mental health symptoms have impacted you socially (with family, friends, the community) and at work or school (performance, attendance, getting along with others). Some veterans struggle in this area, viewing this as ‘complaining’ or as ‘weakness’, but it is not. The exam is your opportunity to explain how these symptoms have made things harder. If the examiner does not specifically ask about such difficulties, it is important to bring them up.

Thinking about or submitting such statements in advance can be particularly important in cases of trauma which can be very difficult to talk about. Writing about it on your terms in a safe and familiar setting can often be easier than discussing those circumstances in detail during the examination. In cases of trauma, it is not the graphic details that are important. What is important is offering a general description of what occurred and how it affected you during and after service.


Mental Health Resources for Veterans

National Center for PTSD

The National Center for PTSD is a clearinghouse for all aspects of PTSD: for veterans, family, friends, and mental health professionals. It provides training, resources, and support. 

Veteran Benefit Administration

The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) provides a variety of benefits and services to Service members, Veterans, and their families.

Veterans Crisis Line (Dial 988, then Press 1)

When a veteran needs help, the Veteran Crisis Line is there. It is an excellent site to become familiar with, so when you need it, you can more quickly get the help you need. 


Reach Out to An Experienced VA Attorney

If you feel you’ve been wrongly denied for your claim, partner with an experienced attorney to file your appeal. Schedule a free consultation with Cameron Firm, PC by calling (800) 861-7262 or submitting a form. Use our experience and resources to get the benefits you deserve.

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Is this matter related a Veteran, Surviving Spouse or Neither?
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