Disability benefits questionnaires (DBQs) are designed to help speed up the processing of claims for disability compensation and pension. These forms serve as supporting documents to help provide more evidence of service-connected conditions when filing a disability claim with the VA. There are different forms for specific medical conditions that veterans can download and use during the evaluation process for disability benefits. Using a DBQ, veterans and servicemembers can have more control over the disability claims process by having the ability to visit a primary care provider in their community and pay out of pocket, instead of visiting a VA facility.
DBQs are beneficial to veterans, because they allow veterans to utilize providers outside of the VA so that they can receive care more quickly, and allow private health care providers to obtain important information that the VA needs to evaluate and decide veterans’ benefits claims efficiently and accurately. Additionally, these forms help alleviate some of the backlog within the VA system, helping to further expedite the disability claims process.
DBQs are not limited to conditions that are service-connected; they can be used for most conditions for which veterans can receive compensation. DBQs can also be used to support the VA’s Fully Developed Claims program. A fully developed disability claim can be submitted with applications for compensation for:
- Conditions that were caused or made worse by active-duty service
- Conditions that were caused or made worse by a disability that the VA has already determined to be service-connected
Since DBQs provide the VA with medical information that is directly relevant to the determination of a disability rating, these forms can be submitted with a fully developed claim to ensure that rating specialists have all of the information they need to process the claim as quickly as possible.
What are DBQs used for?
There are more than 70 different DBQ forms that cover a wide range of conditions. Some forms are designed for specific health issues, like arthritis or high blood pressure, but often, one form can cover several related conditions. A full list of conditions that have DBQs can be found here. Veterans can choose the form that is most appropriate for their condition, have their provider complete it, and then submit the form to the VA.
DBQs can help simplify the documentation of different medical conditions. The forms have checkboxes instead of summary sections, and are designed to help the VA reduce the time it takes to make a claims decision. Additionally, health care providers who are not part of the VA system but treat veterans can help speed up the claims process by completing DBQs for their patients.
While veterans are allowed to utilize providers outside of the VA to have their DBQ forms completed, the costs for these services are not reimbursed by the VA. Veterans can see their Veterans Health Administration clinician to complete their DBQ at no cost, or they can take the form to a private provider of their choosing; veterans are responsible for any costs or co-pays associated with the DBQ completion by a private provider. However, if the appointment is a scheduled compensation appointment that has been requested by the VBA, medical exams and any required testing are covered.
DBQs are not mandatory to complete when filing a disability claim; they are simply a way to help expedite the filing process. When a provider uses a DBQ form to evaluate a medical condition for a disability claim, there is potential that the processing time for that claim will be reduced significantly, since the relevant medical information for the claim is centralized into a single form.
DBQs were initially developed as part of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Transformation Plan. The goals of this plan include:
- Eliminating disability claims backlog, ultimately speeding up the claims process
- Increasing access to benefits and services for veterans
Currently, there are no plans to release additional DBQ forms to the public. The existing forms cover every condition that a veteran can receive compensation for under a VA claim. However, there are a few DBQ forms that are not available for private providers to use. There are no forms for the following medical exams:
- Initial exam for PTSD
- Tinnitus and hearing loss
- Cold injury residual conditions
- Traumatic brain injury residual conditions
- Prisoner of War medical exam
- Gulf War medical exam
- General medical exams for compensation or pension purposes
Forms for these conditions are not available for use outside of the VA, because the VA has determined that the required examinations to complete those forms need specialized training or equipment, or specialized testing that is not necessarily available through private providers, or may be too expensive. For conditions without an available DBQ form, examinations must be conducted by a health care provider at the VA.
How are DBQs filed?
DBQs can be used as part of the initial application to the VA for disability benefits, or may be completed later. They must be completed by a licensed health care professional, who must provide any requested medical information related to the claim. Additionally, all DBQs completed outside of the VA are subject to be authenticated by the VA.
There are four steps for submitting a DBQ:
- Find and download the specific form(s) for your condition(s); DBQs are listed both by form name and by symptoms
- Give the form to your health care provider for them to complete, and keep a copy for your records
- Submit the completed form to the VA
DBQs can be completed electronically or by hand, but must be legible. Health care providers must include their name, contact information, and signature; the VA will not accept DBQs that have not been signed by a licensed health care provider.
Veterans or their physicians can submit forms either by fax or mail to the VA Regional Office handling the veteran’s claim. DBQs can also be hand delivered to a VA facility. Veterans are responsible for any fees incurred from their private health care provider for completing the form.
For more information on DBQs, you can call the VA national call center at 800-827-1000.
Heather Maxey works at a non-profit that addresses military ineligibility. She is an Army spouse, and met her husband while working as a Health Educator at Fort Bragg.
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