One tactic that is often underutilized when filing a claim is the use of a statement in support of claim often referred to as a “buddy letter” or “buddy statement.” A buddy statement can be authored by a veteran’s spouse, family member, friend, and or co-worker. Technically there is no restriction on who can write a buddy statement, as long as they are above 18. An essential requirement though is the author should know the veteran and have relevant knowledge on the condition in which he or she is providing the buddy statement for. These documents, when done well, can be extremely beneficial for a veteran on winning his or her disability claim.
So why does the VA consider buddy statements in the claims process? Simple it’s regarded as the evidence and can be considered by the VA on deciding on the veteran’s disability claim. Now, the key to winning a claim is overall good evidence. Medical evidence from the military, VA, and private medical records are the most compelling evidence to win a claim. But “lay evidence,” which means “after the fact” evidence can also be quite effective for the veteran. Buddy statements fall under lay evidence just like a personal statement does and can help the veteran “tell the story” on the situation regarding a disability condition.
When to Use a Buddy Statement?
There is no right or wrong answer on when exactly should a buddy statement be used for a veteran’s disability claim. Let’s start though with one of the more common needs for a buddy statement—corroboration of a PTSD stressor event associated with a PTSD claim. Typically, in this scenario, the author of the buddy statement may be a fellow service-member who can attest that the stressor occurred as described by the veteran in his PTSD claim. Verification of a stressor is needed to win a PTSD claim. The buddy statement here would help the veteran prove that the stressor event occurred.
A second example of when a buddy statement can be used is for direct knowledge of an incident that caused an injury to the veteran. Let’s say a veteran is submitting a claim for an ankle injury from the field and just “sucked it up,” so it was not documented in his medical records. The veteran can seek a friend whom he served with that remembers the incident occurring and can serve as a witness on exactly how bad the condition was at that time. This can help offset the lack of medical evidence from the past.
A third example of when to use a buddy statement is for corroborating the severity of a veteran’s service-connected condition. An excellent example of this scenario is a spouse writing a buddy statement for the veteran seeking an increase in his PTSD. The spouse has firsthand knowledge and is a high position to be able to write on the symptoms that the veteran has and how they negatively impact his life. What this does is help the VA examiner and reviewer understand just how severe the condition is which will help in determining at what level the veteran should be rated.
A fourth example of when a buddy statement can be used is in a disability claim is to support frequency. Many conditions rated by the VA have a component of frequency or occurrence in determining the rating level. A good example here is the condition of migraines. Migraines that are “prostrating” can be rated at 10%, 30%, and 50% depending on how often a veteran is getting them. Unfortunately, many veterans do not keep track of data like this. This is when a buddy statement can be leveraged to provide this information. Basically, the buddy letter would serve as a witness for the veteran’s condition and corroborate the frequency of the migraines.
How do I Obtain a Buddy Statement?
Once the veteran has determined that a buddy statement will be used as part of the evidence on the disability claim, he or she should identify potential authors for a statement. Naturally, the veteran should look to a spouse, family members, and close friends for this. The veteran should explain to the potential author why they need their assistance and provide some “coaching” on what the letter should contain. If possible, the veteran should complete a personal statement and share that with the buddy statement author so that the two statements align with one another.
What Goes in a Buddy Statement?
Since buddy statements on corroborating a PTSD stressor event are pretty self-explanatory, let’s cover what goes into a buddy statement under the severity of the scenario.
First, a buddy statement should start by explaining how the author knows the veteran and for how long. Example, “My name is Jane Smith. I am the wife of John Smith and have been married to him for ten years.”
Second, the author should explain what the purpose of the statement is for meaning what condition is the statement about. For example, “I am writing this statement in support of my husband’s claim for a PTSD increase.”
Third, the author should provide details of the condition. Again, the author should elaborate on the severity of the condition and provide examples of how it impacts the life of the veteran. The buddy statement should corroborate the personal letter from the vet. Also, the buddy statement can emphasize certain symptoms that stand out and would be vital in gaining a higher-level rating on a given condition.
Fourth, the letter should have a closing sentence that the statement provides is written in a truthful manner as well as contact information in case the VA wants to reach out to them. A common example for this step may look like this, “I certify that the information in this letter is 100% truthful to the best of my knowledge. If you need to contact me for any additional information, please contact me at (123)456-7890 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fifth, the statement should end with a signature and date to make it official.
If you need more help, our team has created a Buddy Letter Generator for you to check out here!
Now some people say that the personal statement should be completed on the VA Form 21-4138. But, ’I’ve had many veteran’s experiences good outcomes with their disability claim by turning in buddy statements in a simple letter format. I think what’s more important is the content of the statement and not necessarily what form it’s on.
In closing, it never hurts to supplement the evidence of a disability claim with a buddy statement. Doing so may give you that additional evidence needed to have the claim go in your favor. If you have any questions regarding a disability claim, feel free to contact me here. If you are ready to sign up for our services you can do so by registering here.
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About the Author
VA Claims insider is an education-based coaching/consulting company. We’re here for disabled veterans exploring eligibility for increased VA disability benefits and who wish to learn more about that process. We also connect veterans with independent medical professionals in our referral network for medical examinations, disability evaluations, and credible Independent Medical Opinions & Nexus Statements (Medical Nexus Letters) for a wide range of disability conditions.