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.
Dr. Finnerty is a psychologist who is available for records reviews on Veterans disability claims for Veterans located anywhere. He is also available for in-person examinations in Columbus, Ohio. He prefers to conduct examinations in-person. However, on a limited trial basis due to COVID-19, in select instances Dr. Finnerty may be willing to conduct telehealth disability examinations for VA disability claims for Veterans physically located in Ohio at the time of the examination if the Veteran understands the potential issues and policy concerns involved.