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11.4. Inferred VA Claims

An "inferred" claim is one not specifically identified by a claimant, but supported by the evidence.  Once a claim is received, VA has a duty to review the claim and the C-file supporting documents, and oral testimony in a liberal manner to identify and adjudicate all reasonably raised claims, even if a specific claim is not raised by the appellant.  See Shockley v. West, 11 Vet. App. 208, 214 (1998); see also Collier v. Derwinski, 2 Vet. App. 247, 251 (1992) (holding that although the appellant had not filed the specific form asking for individual unemployability, an informal claim was raised because he had continually stated he was unable to work due to his service-connected mental disorder).  This is discussed elsewhere in this Knowledge Book.  Claimants should not rely on this duty and should always identify all the claims he or she believes are supported by the evidence.

VA has an obligation to assist with development of a claim and render a formal decision. However, an inferred issue is not a claim. VA should not initiate development of an inferred issue unless the evidence indicates VA may be able to grant the benefit. Consider soliciting a claim in such instances.

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