One of the most difficult tasks for a Veteran when he is attempting to prove his claim for VA disability is finding evidence to support their claim. Service Treatment Records are reviewed to find any complaints, injury, or illness while the Veteran was in service. Post-military medical records are reviewed to show both a continuation of treatment after service and a current disability. The problem is that these records are not easy to obtain, if you can get them at all.
Veterans are often told that their records have been “lost.” This may be due to a number of issues, but the most commonly cited reason is the fire in St. Louis, Missouri that destroyed the paper files. If a Veteran’s service treatment records were destroyed in the fire, or the VA otherwise “lost” the records, the Veteran is to be given a heightened benefit of the doubt. Meaning, generally, that unless the VA can provide clear and unmistakable evidence that the statements of the Veteran are not true, then the Veteran’s statements are to be taken as credible.
The VA has a Duty to Assist a Veteran in obtaining any and all evidence that may reasonably support his claim or contention. There are various governmental agencies from which the VA has a duty to request various service treatment records that may not have been included in the National Personnel File. These databases include information such as mortar attacks, locations of deployments, exposures to toxic chemicals, etc., which may not always be included in the Veteran’s claims file (C-file). Failure of the VA to properly afford the Veteran the Duty to Assist in obtaining the records is often times basis for an appeal.
The Veteran’s claims file is supposed to contain any and all evidence related to the Veteran’s claim for disability. All of the Veteran’s Service Treatment Records should be included, as well as his service personnel records, and any subsequent medical treatment. Furthermore, the claims file includes any decision from the VA on a disability or any appeal of the decisions by the Veteran. Obviously, this evidence is invaluable to a Veteran and their representative. The quickest and most effective way to access the Veteran’s claims file is through a system called the Veterans’ Benefits Management System (VBMS).
VBMS access is granted to VA employees as well as non-organizational users such as attorneys or registered agents that are assisting the Veteran with their disability claim. Access to VBMS allows the representative to quickly pull the Veteran’s entire claims file, rather than wait for the VA to send them a copy upon request. When a new Rating Decision is issued, it is uploaded directly to VBMS before it is mailed out. This access allows us to review relevant evidence at our own pace, rather than wait for the VA to send the requested documents.
A strong foundation of medical evidence is a requirement for service connection of VA disabilities. While retrieval of the documents is not an easy process, the Veterans’ Disability Attorneys at Gardberg and Kemmerly are familiar with the procedures to get these documents. Please call our office and speak with one of our qualified Veterans’ Disability attorneys. Gardberg and Kemmerly is committed to helping injured and disabled Veterans obtain the benefits they deserve. If you need help with a disability claim, call our office at 251-343-1111 or 800-332-1529 for a free consultation. Gardberg and Kemmerly is proud to serve Veterans across the country from our home office in Mobile, Alabama. We would love an opportunity to discuss your claim.