What Veterans Should Know About VA Buddy Statements
When making a disability claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans need to prove service connection. As discussed in past blog posts, service connection shows that an injury or illness resulted from an in-service incident. Veterans need to gather evidence, such as medical records, when making or appealing a claim. And in many cases, buddy statements can be a key piece of evidence. This post will break down the basics of buddy statements, or buddy letters, and the role of this evidence in your VA disability claim.
What Is a Buddy Statement?
A buddy statement is a letter that includes specific details about an in-service incident, as well as the veteran’s illness or injury. This statement can be from a family member, close friend, co-worker, or fellow service member. The goal of a buddy letter is to provide first-hand details to the VA about the veteran’s in-service incident or how their condition affects daily life.
It’s important to note that many veterans may have sustained their injury or illness at a time when there was a lack of medical records. It’s also possible that the medical facility where they received treatment eliminate old records after a certain amount of time. And often, the lack of medical records can be a road block in the veterans disability claims process.
This is where buddy statements come in.
Buddy statements provide first-hand knowledge of a veteran’s condition, often filling in the gaps that missing medical records may leave. The VA can assess this lay evidence when awarding disability compensation or making a decision on an appeal. Buddy statements may be necessary when bringing a case to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA).
When Should You Submit a Buddy Statement?
Veterans may consider including buddy letters in their claim when they are missing key evidence like medical records. However, veterans can also include these statements as additional evidence to support existing medical records. Here are some examples of when buddy statements can be particularly helpful:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: In PTSD cases, it can be helpful to have statements from family members confirming the change in a veteran’s behavior before and after the service. For example, a veteran’s parent may state that while the veteran’s personality was friendly and upbeat before the service, they became withdrawn and anxious after.
- Military Sexual Trauma (MST): Buddy statements can also be particularly helpful in MST claims. This is particularly true if a service member didn’t receive immediate medical attention following the incident. Buddy statements from close friends and fellow service members can support that the incident occurred and that the veteran’s current mental health symptoms are connected to the MST.
- In-Service Personal Assault: Similar to MST, in-service personal assault cases may require first-hand knowledge of the veteran’s experience. Military co-workers, for example, may have witnessed the event first-hand or noticed a change in the veteran’s health or behavior afterward.
While these are some prominent examples of when statements from friends and family members can be helpful, these letters can always be useful in confirming a veteran’s current symptoms and the in-service event.
How Do You Submit a Buddy Statement?
When submitting a buddy letter as evidence in your claim for VA disability benefits, you can do so in two ways:
- VA Form 4138: The VA Form 21-4138, or Statement in Support of Claim, is one avenue for submitting a buddy statement. This is typically the easiest way to send the letter to the VA. Keep in mind that by filling out and signing this form, you are confirming that the information in the statement is true.
- Affidavit With a Notary: If you don’t want to use VA Form 4138 when submitting your buddy statements, you may consider obtaining an affidavit with a notary. This is another way to swear that the testimonies in the buddy statements are true.
If you aren’t sure which avenue is best for your claim, consider seeking legal advice from a veterans disability attorney.
For more information on how to write a VA buddy letter, see the tips in our recent blog post.
Appealing a VA Disability Rating?
If the VA denied your veteran’s claim or awarding a lower disability rating than you expected, the team at Hill & Ponton can help you through the appeals process. Our attorneys focus on veterans disability and social security law, helping individuals and their families obtain the compensation they deserve. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
We are sorry that this post was not as useful for you!
Help us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?