I have offered cautions about paying for DBQ’s from private providers on this blog before due to the VA’s policies related to this. I have seen where these have been thrown out just because they were a DBQ from a private provider. I don’t think this necessarily means that you shouldn’t get a telehealth examination for VA disability, however, particularly in the changing environment we’re now facing with COVID-19. I think it can be acceptable to get a private, independent evaluation of your own via telehealth that the VA would need to consider. This doesn’t mean that the evaluation a Veteran paid for would end up being “in lieu of” a VA C&P examination, however. You may want to consider having the examiner not even complete the DBQ form for telehealth examination but just address all of the information on a DBQ form and offer the same opinions that a DBQ form asks about. You also want to be sure that the examiner notes in their report that they see you “clearly” and could “fully appreciate all non-verbal cues, mannerisms, and manifestations displayed by the Veteran in a manner on par with an in-person examination.”
It is good to be aware and informed of these policies when deciding on going forward with a telemental heath examination. You may also want to be aware that the VA rater may be highly suspicious if you are in one state and your examiner is located many states away. If you are in a state where the examiner is licensed and the examiner is licensed in the state they are located as well, this shouldn’t be a problem at all but should be clearly outlined in the report. If the examiner is a professional who isn’t licensed in your state, this could be a problem based on state laws but also could be a red flag for VA raters.
Here is an excerpt of some policies you may be interested in reviewing prior to agreeing to a private telehealth examination from a psychologist or other mental health professional for your VA disability claim; See III.iv.3.D.2.c. Telehealth and Telemental Health Examinations https://www.knowva.ebenefits.va.gov/system/templates/selfservice/va_ssnew/help/customer/locale/en-US/portal/554400000001018/content/554400000015812/M21-1-Part-III-Subpart-iv-Chapter-3-Section-D-Examination-Reports#2c
When an examiner elects to conduct a videoconference examination (or telehealth/telemental health examination) in lieu of an in-person examination, assess the report for sufficiency under the same standards applicable to in-person examinations. Important:
- A telehealth or telemental health examination report is only acceptable and actionable for rating purposes when prepared by a VHA or VBA-contracted examiner. Decision makers must not accept in lieu of VA examination any DBQ that has been
- prepared by a non-VA provider, and
- completed by means of telephone or videoconference examination.
- A mental health DBQ submitted by a private provider and based on a telephone interview with a Veteran is not acceptable or actionable for rating purposes under any circumstances. VHA has determined that, in order to assess a Veteran’s mental health via telemental protocol, examiners must be able to
- see clearly, and
- fully appreciate all non-verbal cues, mannerisms, and manifestations displayed by the Veteran in a manner on par with an in-person examination.
Reference: For more information on telehealth and telemental health examinations, see the Office of Disability and Medical Assessment (DMA) Fact Sheet 20-002, Telehealth for Compensation and Pension (C&P) Examinations.
Update; the link above no longer says this quote above. Here is the section of interest as of 3/5/21 (III.iv.3.D.2.c. Tele-C&P and Telemental Health Examination):
TeleCompensation and Pension (Tele-C&P) disability evaluations can provide accurate and fully descriptive face-to-face evaluations for VBA rating purposes through use of telehealth video technologies.
When an examiner elects to conduct a Tele-C&P (or telemental health) examination utilizing telehealth video technologies in lieu of performing an in-person examination, assess the report for sufficiency under the same standards applicable to in-person examinations.Important: When reviewing DBQs or medical/examination reports prepared by private, non-VA providers via means of telehealth/telemental health, for the purposes of determining adequacy for rating purposes, exercise prudent judgment by
applying the general assessment principles discussed in M21-1, Part III, Subpart iv, 3.D.2.e, and
considering the credibility and probative value associated with variables disclosed in the DBQ/report, to include the
clinician’s knowledge of the claimant’s relevant history
length of time the clinician has treated the Veteran, and
extent to which medical records and/or other records were reviewed and considered, and
compatibility of the DBQ/report submitted with the types identified as suitable for performance via telehealth technology in the Office of Disability and Medical Assessment (DMA) Fact Sheet 20-002, Telehealth for Compensation and Pension (C&P) Examinations.
You can find a better formatted, official version here: https://www.knowva.ebenefits.va.gov/system/templates/selfservice/va_ssnew/help/customer/locale/en-US/portal/554400000001018/content/554400000015812/M21-1-Part-III-Subpart-iv-Chapter-3-Section-D-Examination-Reports?query=private%20DBQ#2c