What is a Disability Benefits Questionnaire? This was (until 2020) a very important part of the process of being evaluated for a VA disability claim.
Disability benefits questionnaires (DBQs) were designed to help speed up the processing of claims for disability compensation and pension. An applicant wishing to make a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs was asked to list their medical issues and related information to begin the claims process, but supporting documentation was often required. DBQs served as the supporting documents to help provide more evidence of service-connected conditions when filing a disability claim with the VA.
DBQs allowed veterans to utilize private medical providers outside of the VA so that they could receive care more quickly and allowed 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 helped alleviate some of the backlog within the VA system, helping to further expedite the disability claims process.
There were once 70 or more DBQs for a variety of conditions, and the Department of Veterans Affairs provided these forms electronically on the official site starting in 2010, but discontinued providing them in April of 2020. Some of those conditions included (but were not limited to) the following:
- Amputations DBQ
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis DBQ
- Ankle Conditions DBQ
- Artery and Vein Conditions DBQ
- Arthritis and Dysbaric Osteonecrosis DBQ
- Back Conditions DBQ
- Diabetes Mellitus DBQ
- Eating Disorders DBQ
- Eye Conditions DBQ
- Foot Conditions DBQ
- Hand and Finger Conditions DBQ
- Heart Conditions DBQ
- Hip and Thigh Conditions DBQ
- Hypertension DBQ
- Kidney Conditions DBQ
- Knee and Lower Leg Conditions DBQ
- Mental Disorders DBQ
- Muscle Injuries DBQ
- Neck Conditions DBQ
- Peripheral Nerves Conditions DBQ
- Persian Gulf and Afghanistan Infectious Diseases DBQ
- Prostate Cancer DBQ
- Shoulder and Arm Conditions DBQ
- Skin Diseases DBQ
- Tuberculosis DBQ
- Wrist Conditions DBQ
Using a DBQ was intended as a supplement to the VA’s own examination process for these claims rather than as a replacement for the VA exam. The system was useful for those retiring or separating from military service overseas–especially those who had medical issues diagnosed in overseas locations by civilian medical providers. But not all who submitted the forms served in foreign countries.
Those who submitted DBQ forms did so as a form of supporting documentation for the claim, and the value of such input is high when it comes to the VA’s decision-making process for the claim in question.
What Happened To The Disability Benefits Questionnaire?
The Department of Veterans Affairs official site states that the VA has discontinued the use of DBQs, stating originally these forms, “were designed to assist Veterans living overseas to obtain medical evidence in support of their benefit claims where limited options were available.”
Since the VA discontinued DBQs in 2020, the agency works “with contracted providers in more than 30 foreign countries to conduct disability medical examinations.”
What Replaces DBQ
There are two avenues to consider when evaluating what needs to be done to support your VA medical disability claim.
One such avenue is to fill out and complete a DBQ regardless of the fact that the VA no longer offers the forms. Those who need to submit supporting medical documentation may still technically submit a DBQ as some veteran-focused legal websites provide archives of these forms.
One such source reports that the VA policy of accepting these forms has not changed (at press time) but there are no guarantees that submitting the form will help your case. What does this mean to the veteran seeking VA compensation for service-connected medical issues or service-connected disabilities?
That depends on the status of your claim. The VA stopped providing the forms in April of 2020. Conceivably there are veterans who were in the process of submitting such forms or having them completed by a civilian doctor in the meantime.
Those who have already initiated the process should likely complete it but also contact the VA to inquire about what to do in addition to submitting the Disability Benefits Questionnaire. The original submission process allowed veterans or their physicians to submit forms either by fax or mail to the VA Regional Office handling the veteran’s claim. DBQs could also be hand delivered to a VA facility. Note that veterans are responsible for any fees incurred from their private health care provider for completing the form, and you’ll need to check with the VA to confirm next steps.
No DBQ Required To Get Private Healthcare Evidence
The second way to proceed is best for those who have not started a DBQ with a private healthcare provider. In these cases it’s best to follow the advice on the VA official site–don’t give up on having your private provider submit supporting medical evidence on your behalf.
“The Department of Veterans Affairs encourages all Veterans to submit their private medical records for consideration during the processing of their benefits claim.”
The VA official site says for those who wish to do so (and you DO wish to do so if you are filing a claim and have a civilian care provider who can submit medical evidence on your behalf), the process is now as follows:
- Contact the care provider(s) who treated you or who have information about your case and explain you need to file a claim for disability benefits with the Department of Veterans Affairs
- Be sure to explain the conditions you need evidence for
- Request and complete any release required from your healthcare provider to submit the federally-protected privacy act data in your medical records to the Department of Veterans Affairs
- Be sure to get copies of your medical records from the care provider to submit to the VA
- Complete TWO VA Forms: VA Form 21-4142, Authorization to Disclose Information to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) plus VA For 21-4142a, General Release for Medical Provider Information to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
- Submit all completed forms with your claim
When you submit all the completed forms, the VA official site advises that the VA will “attempt to obtain your records through our Private Medical Records contract”. VA Forms 21-4142 and 21-4142a must be completed and submitted TOGETHER in order for the process to begin.
The VA Can Help With Supporting Evidence From Federal Agencies
Some veterans may have federal records needed to support a claim. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers to help–tell your VA rep about any such federal records you need, “… and we will gather these on your behalf.”
It’s important to note that any records the VA itself has are not required to be submitted since the agency already has those on file. However, those who received healthcare at a military hospital or clinic AFTER being discharged should notify the VA with information on when, where, and for how long you received such treatment. This information should definitely be included in your completed VA Forms 21-4142 and 21-4142a.
Calculate your Combined Disability Rating and compensation.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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