VA disability benefits buddy statements can bolster a Veteran’s claim.
About VA Disability Benefits Buddy Statements
VA disability benefits buddy statements are statements from friends, family members, and service members that help prove you have a service-connected disability. VA disability benefits buddy statements need to tell the story of how your physical and mental disabilities are affecting your life. Some VA disability benefits buddy statements need to tell the story of how your mental and physical injuries occurred in the first place. Some VA disability benefits buddy statements may be able to cover both.
Many Veterans’ claims may have to rely solely on VA disability benefits buddy statements if there is no evidence to support their claim. You would be surprised how many Veterans have no evidence besides buddy statements when they apply for VA disability benefits.
The Veterans Administration has a duty to assist Veterans with their claims. That means the VA should be giving you the benefit of the doubt if you have no evidence. Many Veterans find that their service records have been lost or destroyed when they apply for VA disability benefits, which means you can rely on what the VA calls the Statement in Support of Claim VBA Form 21-4138. A statement can be made on letter format if the name, SSN of the Veterans are on the letter as well as this statement with the signature and contact information of the statement writer.
“I CERTIFY THAT the statements on this document are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.”
Buddy Statements for Mental Health Claims
Many Veterans use buddy statements when filing PTSD Veterans disability benefits claims. If you had your PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) claim denied from lack of evidence, you may want to consider buddy statements. Remember, you are wanting to tell the VA how the Veteran changed after they served our country.
Below is a simplified version of a buddy statement. It is very general to give you a sense of what a buddy statement should cover. Essentially your buddy statements will go something like the following:
An Example VA Buddy Statement
“John had no mental problems before he entered the service. He was social, had friends, and a job. John was excited to serve our country and defend our freedoms in Iraq. When John returned home, he was different. John avoids his friends and family members. John now avoids large crowds and is generally isolated from other people. He even has trouble keeping a job because of his anxiety, depression, and what I believe to be PTSD. John has been very different since he returned home from Iraq. We love him unconditionally, but he just isn’t the same person anymore.”
Buddy Statements for Physical Claims
The most common use of buddy statements in physical claims is to show how their disabilities worsened or exist from active duty service (Continuity of Care or Complaints). If your service records were destroyed or lost, using VA disability benefits buddy statements for physical claims may be a good idea.
You can submit statements showing how your physical impairments worsened with your active duty service. For example, suppose you entered the military with back pain and when you were discharged your back pain was much worse. You can have friends, family, or service-members write a lay statement about how your back pain has worsened. You may want them to write about activities you could no longer perform after leaving the service. For example, if you could mow your yard before service and could no longer do so after service, you want the VA to know about that. Tell the VA the story of your injury and how it is now affecting your life more than before you entered the service.
Buddy Statements for Individual Unemployability Claims
Veterans that have trouble keeping or obtaining gainful employment may be eligible for Individual Unemployability (IU) benefits. These benefits pay the same as a 100 percent Veterans benefits rating but do not require Veterans to obtain that high of a rating to be eligible.
VA disability benefits buddy statements for Individual Unemployability benefits can be critical to your claim. Many Veterans submit VA disability benefits buddy statements from current and former employers. You can have your current and former employers write about how your service-connected disabilities prevent you from being employable.
Here is an oversimplified version of what a buddy statement from an employer may look like:
“Jane’s disabilities prevented her from working a normal schedule. We often had to let Jane leave early because of her service-connected disabilities. Jane also called in sick more days than was allowed because of her service-connected disabilities. We allowed Jane to work here because we really like her and we appreciate her service to our country. However, as an employer, Jane is much more difficult than a normal employee. We must give her much more leeway than anyone else gets. A normal employee would not get the same accommodations as Jane.”
Wartime Buddy Statements
Veterans with wartime injuries often find that their medical treatment was never documented. In the heat of battle, no one wants to complete paperwork. That means many Veterans who apply for VA disability benefits years later may not have evidence of their battle injuries. Believe it or not, this is a common problem Veterans face when applying for VA disability benefits.
If you keep in touch with fellow service members that served in your unit, you could contact them and have them write a statement about your injuries and what treatment you obtained. Many wartime Veterans use Facebook or the White Pages to find Veterans they served with years ago. Usually, a Veteran you served with is going to be happy to hear from you and to help you prove your claim.
Lay Statements from Family Members
Veterans can submit VA disability benefits buddy statements from family members. These “lay statements” can be very powerful. Your family knows you best. They should be able to show how you are different after the service. Let their knowledge of you help your VA claim. Your family members can write statements about your mental and physical impairments. These statements should document how your injuries were worsened or occurred during service. The statement should directly link those injuries to your diminished mental or physical condition.
FAQ: VA Disability Benefits Buddy Statements
Why does the VA accept buddy statements? There are many reasons why the VA accepts VA disability benefits buddy statements. The VA loses records which can make it hard for Veterans to prove some disabilities are service-connected. Some Veterans need to show that their mental conditions worsened or were caused by active duty service. There are lots of reasons to include VA disability benefits buddy statements with your claim.
Does the VA have to accept all buddy statements? No. The VA is not required to accept all evidence that is submitted with VA disability benefits claims. Sometimes evidence is irrelevant.
Do I have to submit my buddy statement with my application? Not necessarily. If you have buddy statements, it is highly suggested you submit them with your application. However, many Veterans don’t think they need buddy statements until they have their VA disability denied. You can submit your VA disability benefits buddy statement with your appeal.
What if my records were destroyed in the St. Louis fire? Many Veterans’ service records were destroyed in a fire in 1973. That means that thousands of Veterans have no evidence to prove they are entitled to VA disability benefits. These Veterans have found that VA buddy statements are critical to their claims.
- Records Held for Army Veterans
The fire destroyed 80 percent of the records held for Veterans who were discharged from the Army between November 1, 1912, and January 1, 1960.
Exceptions: Records for retirees and reservists who were alive on July 12, 1973, were not involved in the fire.
- Records Held for Air Force Veterans
The fire destroyed 75 percent of the records held for Veterans who were discharged from the Air Force between September 25, 1947 and January 1, 1964 with surnames beginning with Hubbard and running through the end of the alphabet.
If you do not fall into this list, then your records WERE NOT destroyed in the 1973 file!
The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri has a program to reconstruct records if needed. Click this link: https://www.va.gov/records/get-military-service-records/reconstruct-records/
What if I can’t find anyone I served with? You can get statements from friends and family members. This method does not work in all cases, but many Veterans find statements from friends and family members do work.