March 22, 2012 (current as of this date, other changes may follow in the future)
(91outcomes.com) - The federal VA's announcement today regarding the release of many more Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) will help provide consistency and speed to processing of service-connection claims for veterans with Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and other military service.
According to a VA press release about the DBQs:
“VA employees will be able to more quickly process disability claims, since disability benefits questionnaires capture important medical information needed to accurately evaluate Veterans’ claims,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Disability benefits questionnaires are just one of many changes VA is implementing to address the backlog of claims.”
The new forms bring to 71 the number of documents, called disability benefits questionnaires (DBQs), that guide physicians’ reports of medical findings, ensuring VA has exactly the medical information needed to make a prompt decision.
When needed to decide a disability claim for compensation or pension benefits, VA provides Veterans with free medical examinations for the purpose of gathering the necessary medical evidence.
Veterans who choose to have their private physicians complete the medical examination can now give their physicians the same form a VA provider would use. It is very important that physicians provide complete responses to all questions on the DBQs. VA cannot pay for a private physician to complete DBQs or for any costs associated with examination or testing. “By ensuring relevant medical information can be found on one form, we will cut processing time while improving quality,” added Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey.
Several diagnosed multisymptom illnesses are "presumptive" for service-connection for veterans with service in the Persian Gulf between August 2, 1990 and an ending date that has yet to be determined.
In general, "presumptive" means the otherwise qualified veteran does not have to prove that the condition began in, or was aggravated by military service as is required for other service-connected cases. In the case of these presumptives, otherwise eligible veterans need only prove, in general, that they have the required service, the current condition, and that the condition is currently disabling.
The new DBQs related to Persian Gulf presumptive conditions include:
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME): Use DBQ called, "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome"
- Fibromyalgia (FMS): Use DBQ called,"Fibromyalgia"
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (FGID's): Use DBQ called, "Intestinal Conditions (other than Surgical or Infectious) Including Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis and Diverticulitis" . Note that while Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and Diverticulities are listed on the same DBQ, they are not presumptive for Gulf War veterans.
- Residual effects of nine endemic infectious diseases: Use DBQ called, "Persian Gulf and Afghanistan Infectious Diseases"
The new DBQs also include presumptive conditions that apply to all veterans with qualifying service but may also be of special relevance to Gulf War veterans:
- ALS: Use DBQ called, "Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease)"
- MS: Use DBQ called, "Multiple Sclerosis (MS)" (Presumptive if MS appears within seven years of discharge to a degree at least 10 percent disabling)
Many of the other DBQs may also be relevant to Gulf War veterans preparing claims for undiagnosed or poorly defined conditions with multiple symptom components, or as direct service connection for conditions that have their documented origin or worsening during military service:
- Skin Diseases
- Eye Conditions
- Sinusitis, Rhinitis, and Other Conditions of the Nose, Throat, Larynx, and Pharynx
- Loss of Sense of Smell and/or Taste
- Respiratory Conditions (other than Tuberculosis and Sleep Apnea)
- Sleep Apnea
- Male Reproductive Organ Conditions
- Gynecological Conditions
- Peripheral Nerve Conditions (Not Including Diabetic Sensory-Motor Peripheral Neuropathy)
These are only a few of the more than 70 DBQs available at http://benefits.va.gov/
Veterans may file service-connection claims online, including using a new web portal at: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov.
However, going through the VA claims process without a trained veterans claims officer is much like going through a complex court case without a lawyer. Accredited claims officers can be found with veterans service organizations and state veterans agencies.