The following is written from a C&P (Compensation and Pension) examiner's perspective relating to psychiatric exams to assist veterans in navigating the VA system. It is also a good guideline for all VA exams. A little common sense and clarity of thinking will go a long ways towards getting you what you are entitled:
1) Be on time or a little early.
2) Be polite. Yelling at the examiner for the injustices you perceive will do nothing but alienate him/her.
3) Curse at your risk. You can get your point across much better with proper English than you can with outlandish language.
4) Keep in mind that your examiner is the person that is going to judge you. It's his/her job and that is why you are there. To be adjudicated fairly how would you like to be remembered? A scuzzy stereotypical veteran or a troubled one who is doing the best he/she can.
5) Do not talk about alcohol or drug related issues. You are not there to be assessed for those problems. You are there to be assessed for your psychiatric functioning as today relates to your service history. If the examiner asks about alcohol or drugs, politely remind them that you are not there for those issues (assuming you've ever had them), but for how impaired you are in your daily functioning. It's best to avoid even talking about them.
6) Don't waste your time relating how badly you believe you've been mistreated. The examiner only has a short time to figure out how impaired you are and they need the facts. In coherent, concise, sentences, and not rambling rants that end nowhere.
7) Answer the questions to the best of your ability. If you don't know say so.
8) Be honest. Don't embellish your stories with fanciful tales. Just the facts please. Be able to document everything you tell the examiner. You may run into someone who checks stories out. If possible have letters from people you served with, unit diary copies of incidents that occurred during your time and space, and letters from family members. Family member letters usually don't add a lot of weight to your case because families are there to support you and examiners understands that.
9) When responding to examiners you need to pick the worst moment of time relating to that question. You need to be rated for the worst times you have had. As an example, pick a really bad day you have experienced and relate all of your answers to that day. Such as, the day you could not sleep, were anxious and startled easily, were grouchy to your wife and friends, you felt like your heart was coming out of your chest, and nothing went right for you. That day should have been in the last 30-90 days. If it was a year ago you may not need to be having this exam.
10) Remember when you are asked, how are you doing today? to report how you really are doing and not how you'd like to be doing. Most veterans want to be doing much better than they really are. It's like they know they can be doing better, and have done better, but their pride does not want to let anyone know how badly they really are doing
11) Ask if it would be okay to have your husband/wife in the room with you during the exam. Husbands and wives can tell the truth much better than the veteran. Ask your spouse how well you've done in the past ten days versus your own opinion of how you've been doing. Quite a dramatic difference if you are truthful!
The questions you are being asked are on a script in front of the examiner. After examiners do this for a while they get a sense of what is in front of them. It's not too difficult to determine when someone is flat out lying and when they are struggling with memory. Examiners can be scammed but the scammers often pay a price. It's a federal criminal act to lie in order to gain monetary compensation. And the odds are you will be prosecuted. It simply isn't worth it. Examiners are generally good people trying to do a very difficult job. Make it easy for them.
Please see your local county veterans service officer if you have any questions. You can contact your local VSO at (218) 631-7617 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, have a great week.