Your claims file contains all communications and documents that refer to your VA claims. Also included in the claims file are your military records if you are claiming a disability, all compensation and pension exam reports, letters from VA, VA decision documents such as rating decisions, statements of the case, and medical treatment records. Any documents that related to veterans benefits are kept in your claims file. This is generally the only place where these documents are kept. However, your Vocational Rehabilitation file is kept separately.
Before requesting any other records, we recommend that you request a copy of your claims file. You can use VA Form 3288 to request a copy of your claims file. You can also use Form 3288 to request other medical records not in your claims file. In addition, you can make any other request in accordance with the Privacy Act or the Freedom of Information Act to obtain your claims file. Under the Freedom of Information Act, the VA is required to provide a response within 20 business days. However, VA rarely complies with this time requirement. The VA can charge a fee to copy your claims file, but you are allowed one free copy. We recommend that if you are thinking about hiring an attorney, let your attorney obtain your one free copy of the claims file.
Keep in mind that because VA rarely complies with the time requirements in the FOIA, you will need to make repeated requests in order to obtain the file. It’s important not to give up.