|Matthew Hill:||Hello and welcome to the Hill & Ponton VA Video Blog. My name’s Matthew Hill. I’m here with Carol Ponton.|
|Carol Ponton:||I’m Carol Ponton.|
|Matthew Hill:||This is the second part in our four-part series on buddy statements. We talked about the importance of buddy statements in the prior one and how they can affect your claim and how crucial evidence they are.|
|Today we want to talk about how to make a buddy statement. The critical things that need to be in the statement that your buddy, friend, family member, service member puts in there so that it is a competent statement.|
|Carol Ponton:||And we see this because when we get veterans, they often have buddy statements from people who are no longer alive or no longer available. And that’s why we want to make sure you know it’s very important … When you think about a buddy statement, you need to start out with, “Why did I pick this person? How is it that he has anything to add?”|
|So if it’s a person who was in the military with you, it’s very important to give his or her full name, what service they were in, if possible their service records, so that the VA, because they tend not to believe people, can verify that this person was where he said he was and had the opportunity to observe you, and therefore his statement is very credible.|
|Matthew Hill:||Right. You want them to be able to observe you, or they happen to be in the same place or the same year. Something to where it puts them there. Their name, their unit, where they were stationed, their MOS, what they were doing, so that you give them … It’s the foundation. Those might not be directly related to your case, but those are the foundation for why they are able to make a statement.|
|Carol Ponton:||And why should the VA believe this person? For instance, if it’s Thailand and they’re talking about the herbicides that were sprayed there, this person would have to show that … How can the government find out that he actually was in Thailand during a relevant time period, and therefore what he says is very important, okay?|
|Matthew Hill:||Right. And to that, it’s also speaking to competence. And competence basically means that that person has the ability to talk about some issue. And they have the ability to do so because they have the background. They have the knowledge or understanding. And so in Thailand, there would be various degrees of that. You’d have someone who was there and eyewitnessed the actual spraying, understood how close he was or his unit was to the actual perimeter.|
|And then you could have a different, more sophisticated level of competence. You could have somebody who was actually doing the spraying, and you could say, “This is what the barrel said on the stuff I was spraying.” So various levels of competence, but they need to establish that. Why can they say what they say? Were they there? Did they see it? Did they hear it? Did they talk to somebody about it?|
|Carol Ponton:||Exactly. And what is their connection to you? Were they stationed with you? Did they come and replace you? Were they in the same unit that you were in? You need to let them know everything you can possibly think of to build up your case. This is the time to do it.|
|And it’s so sad, because sometimes when we get the case, that person’s not there anymore and we can’t elaborate. We can’t make it better. So think about all the questions that you think somebody would ask if they’re trying to prove something.|
|Matthew Hill:||And who was it that said, “Just the facts, ma’am.”|
|Carol Ponton:||Nothing but the facts.|
|Matthew Hill:||Nothing but the facts. Well that’s what you want here. You don’t want somebody making an argument saying, “Please give this guy benefits. He’s a really nice man. He deserves what he’s getting.” That doesn’t get you anywhere, and frankly it distracts from the value of that person’s statement. So you want that person to give the facts. “I was here. I knew him in service.”|
|Carol Ponton:||“I actually saw this.”|
|Carol Ponton:||“We lived in the same hooch. We worked in the same flight line.” Anything that’s very significant to prove your case.|
|Matthew Hill:||And the value of this is tremendous. We spoke about this in the prior one, but if you get a competent statement from someone else that is critical to your case, the VA might dismiss it. If you’re in the regional office, this happens. But if you keep appealing, you get up to the BVA, they understand the legal implications of a competent statement. And they understand that they have to take it seriously. And if they don’t, then they can get appealed to the Veterans Court.|
|Carol Ponton:||And for that reason, we see a lot of cases are won at the Board that are not won at the regional office because the Board gives this a lot of credibility. And they look at the VA and they said, “Why didn’t you pay any attention to it? Because this proves the case and we’re gonna award benefits.” So don’t stop at the regional office. Take those buddy statements all the way up.|
|Matthew Hill:||Well thanks for watching. This is, as I said, the second part in a four-part series on buddy statements. The first was about the importance. This was about how to write one. And then next two will be how a buddy statement is important both in the service connection case and a rating case. Thank you.|
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