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Does the VA have to help me prove my case?

The VA does have a duty to assist you with your claim.

You have submitted a claim and you don’t quite have all the evidence that you need to win your claim.  Who can help?  Congress has required the VA to help you by enacting a law establishing a “duty to assist.”  The key part of the law says: “[t]he Secretary shall make reasonable efforts to assist a claimant in obtaining evidence necessary to substantiate the claimant’s claim for a benefit under a law administered by the Secretary.”  38 U.S.C. 5103A.

The VA, however, is not required to help you if VA believes that the requested aid has no reasonable possibility of proving your claim.  The VA can also wait to prove you assistance until you provide them certain “essential information” that may be missing from your application.

There are a few common things that the VA will do to help you prove your claim.  The VA will obtain records, such as medical records, from public and private facilities.  They will obtain your service medical records (SMRs) and social security disability records (SSDI).  This duty is limited however to records that may actually support, or refute, your claim.  The VA is not obligated to obtain records that have nothing to do with your submitted claim.

The VA will also obtain medical examinations or opinions for you.  This duty will trigger essentially when there is a a threshold of information supporting your claim but not enough information where the VA could act upon it and award you your benefits.

If you have a pending claim and need some help accumulating information, all you have to do is ASK!

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