Get Your VA Claims File: Know what VA Knows about You

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Request your VA claims file

I remember my first FOIA / Privacy Act request for my VA claims file like it was yesterday. The wind was blowing through my hair; it was a warm and inviting summer breeze. “Stamp, thud,” sounded the date stamp.

I walked away from the Regional Office with a date stamped copy of my first request and waiting. And waited. And waited.

When it showed up in my mailbox, I tore it open with the excitement of Christmas present. For lawyers representing veterans, the feeling is near mutual when they know VA likely made dramatic errors. Dramatic errors spell big bucks for all parties when VA is caught doing it.

In every claim, there is likely some form of a mistake, be it small or be it significant. In my claims file, the mistake was significant many of the times. I think in all I have filed claims and appeals at least seven times.

Each time I filed a Notice of Disagreement and each time I won a VA claim, I felt more empowered to dig deeper into the file for the missing kernel of fact buried in each opinion. Every time I found such a kernel, I won a few thousand dollars.

The more I did this, the more educated I became about my own VA claim and how veterans can fight for themselves to get a just reward for their efforts. Eventually, VA kicked up enough dirt and pissed me off enough to cause me to want to go to law school to fight back.

In the end, all I needed to know about law I learned from improper VA denials, and it is that process of fighting that got me to where I am today.

It was like the Johnny Cash song, A Boy Named Sue, except I was named Veteran.

The irony is not lost on me that VA paid for my education and in turn I intend to use that education to fight back against VA on behalf of any veteran they screw over.

For veterans, many of you feel powerless when it comes to your VA claim. You get the denial in the mail. Maybe you read it; maybe you don’t. Either way, most veterans never request a copy of their claims file.

This is a huge mistake because you are literally throwing away money if VA was wrong. You will never know if they were wrong if you do not read the VA evaluator’s opinion about your particular claim and condition.

So, for those of you who are saying, “Yeah, so how do I do that?” It is easy. I wrote up a template a few years ago that is here on the website.

There are actually two templates. You can pick whichever you like. Just input your information and mail it to the VA Regional Office certified mail with return receipt requested. Be sure to keep that receipt when you get it.

Go here to get the templates: FOIA VA claims file.

Until then, enjoy the video for A Boy Named Sue.

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14 Comments

  1. Benjamin, I used one of the templates to get my c-file and I had it in a couple of weeks. The amount of information in there is something that I was unaware of. So much of it was very wrong and most of my comp exams were nothing but lies. They had things in their report that I never had done during the exams. I now go to my exams and bring someone else with me and they take notes as to what is being done and what the results are. After my last one, my contradicting notes (from the person whom took them and were notarized) were enough for them to give me another exam ( I mentioned some things about “Reasonable doubt” and that I think it would apply in this case as the person wrote he/she would be willing to testify under oath on what was written). This time it was a complete exam to the letter and to the form they are to use. The result is not complete as my case is not finished as of this date but here was so much positive information for me and he wrote things like “More likely than not (50% or greater) that is was a direct result of my claimed disability” and other remarks and he actually used a measuring device for my knees and WOW I have limited motion in both legs, fatigability after repetitive use, x-ray proof of arthritis in my left, meniscus tear and cyst in the right and many other things. I had complained of this for over five years now.
    This is a result of getting the FOIA file, reading it, making notes of the wrongs and making them right. If you do not have your c-file, get it, read every page, look-up what you do not understand, get the wrongs in the records corrected and be persistent. The results are worth the effort you put in. If you do not do some work to help yourself (or are represented by a legal person), no one else will. If you want to leave it in the VA’s hands, then don’t even bother to file a claim, you will most likely be denied.
    Just my $.02 worth. Good luck

  2. you have me thinking…va denied me back to 1982, because i m,issed a cutoff date in 1990. i got ssd for ptsd in 1982. appealed to washington 1983. denied….
    va says mental health issues are no excuse for not filing on time.
    i am appealing again on the basis of cognitive memory loss.
    my question isif i request my c file will that further delay claims process?

  3. Impressive I know I have part of my records had my Congressman get them but I don’t have all. Congressman was sent a letter sorry some records faded due to the age. However their some looked like they were done yesterday how’s that work?
    So now I will get my C-file and go after these horribles.

  4. The VA Service Representatives are getting paid to appropriately represent veterans in their service connected disability claims and it’s not happening; veteran’s are under minded by VA Service Representatives and intentionally misrepresented and poorly represented; the veteran’s who file claims are often lied to and get false information put in their claim files. That unscrupulous process is a joke to VA representatives and it needs to stop. The VA representatives should do the job they are paid to do and do it respectfully, professionally, and intellectually. It’s too bad this comment won’t help; the systems is simply what it is.

  5. Just checked the claims status from where my attorney filed FOIA for my C-File…
    Submitted: 06/29/2016 (Freedom of Information Act / Privacy Act Request)
    Estimated Completion: 02/08/2018 – 03/21/2019 Estimated Completion

    I certainly hope that estimated completion shrinks rather than expands…

  6. Do i need to get my C file before i file my claims ? I am just now getting my claims together and going to my VA appointments
    I have been out since july of 96 but my body is just going down hill. My hearing, knees and a non combat stresser is now really bothering me . Can anyone point me in the right direction. Thanks in advance for any help

    • I would focus on obtaining all records from private as well as va medical sources , for the conditions you are claiming. put in a notice of intent to file va form 21-0966, doing so will retain your effective date as well give you time to collect your medical information. in other words getting all your ducks in a row. the less work the va has to do getting your information ,the faster your case will move. once you have your medical records ,you can then drop them off all at once, speeding up the process. GOD BLESS !!!

  7. I read all of these short turn around time for the “C” file and I chuckle because it took me almost 6 months and coming close to getting my congressman involved then when I got it about halfway through it I found somebody else’s file mixed in with mine after finding what I thought was the right person to contact all I was told was to destroy that cd and another one was on the way which I did get within a month. My point is the VA jerked me around to the point where I’m ready to give in.

  8. I submitted a FOIA request for my C-File and received a response from VA referring to my request as a Privacy Act request. As I understand it, exception 6 to FOIA (private personal information) is intended to protect against “clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” Since I stated in my request that I was the subject of the request, I believe my C-File is properly disclosable to me under FOIA and that the statutory time limits should apply. I included Form DOJ-361 “Certificate of Identity.” with my request.

    Am I correct in asserting that the records are releasable under FOIA, rather than the Privacy Act?

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