Assessing Medical Evidence - What the Board Requires for Medical and Expert Opinions

The Board supports Veterans, Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP members, and their families in obtaining the benefits they are entitled to for service-related disabilities. The following information explains what the Board requires for medical and expert opinions. This will help you present the best evidence possible to support your application.

When Board members hear your case, they are required to assess the credibility of various types of evidence, including medical evidence. This often involves the careful analysis of medical opinions, notes, or letters about the origins of your disability. It is your and your representative's responsibility to provide the Board with credible evidence to support your application.

In broad terms, a credible medical opinion must: be provided by a qualified person; be based on a reasonably complete and accurate medical history; and have a logical conclusion based on the relevant medical-scientific information from recognized texts or studies. The information below provides more detailed information about what the Board will look for in the medical/expert opinion(s) you provide.

Expert's role and obligations

The expert must be qualified to address the issues at hand, independent, and their opinion must be objective and impartial. The Board can more easily determine whether these three obligations have been fulfilled if the following conditions are met:

Qualifications

  • Information on the expert's training and experience is provided.

Independence

  • The report describes the relationship between the applicant and the expert.
  • The expert was aware of the legal context for which the opinion was required.
  • The expert is not acting as the applicant's advocate or representative.

Objectivity and Impartiality

  • The facts or assumptions on which the report is based are provided.
  • The opinion is accompanied by the request for the expert opinion or the letter of instruction.

Content of the expert's report or opinion

The expert's report or opinion should include: the file history and relevant personal and family history; and an opinion based on medical or scientific literature that is accompanied by a detailed discussion, written in clear language, explaining the reasons for the stated opinion. The Board can more easily determine whether the content of the medical opinion is credible if the following conditions are met:

History

  • The report contains a review of the medical file.
  • The report contains a list of current treatments and the prognosis.

Opinion

  • The opinion addresses relevant risk factors.
  • The report is based on basic medical concepts that are generally accepted by the medical community; if not, the report identifies the controversial concepts.
  • The report contains any necessary caveats or qualifications indicating that the data or research on the issues examined was incomplete or that the position adopted in the report is hypothetical or innovative.
  • Works or documents supporting the opinion are listed.

For more information on the credibility of evidence in general, click here.

Independent Medical Opinions

Section 38 of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board Act allows the Board to seek an independent medical opinion to help evaluate medical evidence in a Veteran’s case.

An independent medical opinion is an expert’s review of an individual Veteran’s situation and documentation. This means it is not generally applicable to other Veterans’ cases and does not represent general medical information. Rather, it is information to help clarify specific medical issues related to a Veteran’s unique circumstances.

Before accepting an independent medical opinion as evidence in the file, the Board shares it with the Veteran and their representative and gives them an opportunity to make arguments and/or submissions on the issue.

Click here to read independent medical opinions requested by the Board.

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