In the first part of this blog, we talked about you painting a vivid picture of the circumstances surrounding your claim with details. We talked about including the five “W’s”; what, where, when, why, and who. Well, the same holds true for the Buddy Statement. A buddy statement is a written statement from an individual who has knowledge about the Veteran’s disease or injury. The person giving the statement can use the same VA Form 4138 for their statement in support of your claim. A buddy statement can be made by a fellow service member, relative, or friend. The key is to have someone that is familiar with your condition and how it affects your daily life. Someone that can move the reader with details that make your condition or the time of your injury clearly visible can be extremely influential. With regard to the buddy statement, the greater the separation of personal affiliation between you and the person writing the buddy statement the more value it will carry with the reader. This is because the reader places less bias in a statement when the writer has nothing to gain from making that statement. The factual undertones of a statement given by a fellow service member will carry more corroborating evidence than an emotional plea from a veteran’s spouse. In other words, it’s like having an eyewitness to the event versus someone who heard about what happened and saw the results of that event. Ideally, getting statements from more than one source gives the reader different perspectives and more evidence that leads to the same conclusion. .Buddy statements provide important information corroborating or backing up, the veteran’s claim. These statements can be extremely helpful in situations where records were lost, destroyed or never existed. As we did in part I of this blog, we will discuss the elements of a Buddy Statement required to produce a statement which supports a claim for direct service connection of a new claim. Statements meant to support an increased rating of a service-connected claim will be discussed in future blogs.
Buddy statements for service-connection claims should include content focused on the incident that happened in service causing the disability. Most of these statements will come from fellow servicemen. For example, for disabilities incurred or aggravated during combat, if service records do not show that the Veteran was involved in combat and the Veteran knows a fellow service member who witnessed his injury, a buddy statement can be written to corroborate the Veteran’s claim Many veterans struggle to find fellow service members to corroborate incidents during service, especially if many years have passed since their service, but if you are able to find someone who is willing to give you a buddy statement to support your claim, again, the more detail the better. If you are unable to locate someone who remembers the incident during service, you may want to try talking to family members or friends who you made have told about the incident when it happened. For instance, if you sent a letter home to a relative or friend about your injury during service, they can write a statement about the details of your letter. Statements from fellow servicemen are also important in situations like corroborating a post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) stressor or being stationed in an area the VA has recognized as exposed to Agent Orange. Moreover, in cases involving military sexual trauma (MST), where in most cases there is no witness, a buddy statement from someone you shared your ordeal with or has noticed a change in you following the crime, may be the one piece of evidence that sways a decision maker in your case. Ultimately, in spite of medical or service records, those of you who experienced life in service together are each other’s eyewitnesses.
Keep in mind when asking someone to write a buddy statement; it should always include the contact information for the “buddy” writing the statement including their full name, address, and phone number. The full name of the Veteran the statement is being written for should also be provided. The statement should contain the buddy’s perception of what they witnessed (the five “W’s”). The statement needs to be signed by the buddy. If it is not on the VA 4138 form, the statement must be notarized. This is because the VA wants the statement in a format where the person writing the statement is swearing that what they have written in their statement is the truth. Remember that in most cases, a buddy statement is corroborating your statement. Buddy Statements should be written in a style that is accurate, brief, and concise. So when you approach someone and ask, “Would you write me a short statement about everything you remember?” ask them to address the elements of who, what, when, where, and why, in as much detail as possible. Discuss your statement with your buddy and how you would like their statement to corroborate yours without actually writing it for them. A convincing buddy statement in support of your claim is a great tool to back your claim. It is important to go into as much detail as possible in order to make your buddy’s statement come to life for the reader.
Thank you for your service and taking the time to read this blog.
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