Statements: What You Need to Know and Why They are Important
Strong evidence to help support a VA disability claim is very important. Whether it is medical records, service records or service treatment records, there is no doubt that supporting evidence is required to substantiate your claim. When medical evidence is not strong enough, personal, lay and witness statements can fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle. A statement from a friend, family member, or someone you served with can be very effective when trying to establish service-connection or an increased evaluation for a service-connected condition.
Statements from friends and family members can be very powerful tools. Statements can be used to establish a nexus between a current disability and service. They can also be used to establish a stressor for PTSD in claims for service connection for PTSD. For example, if a veteran experienced a sexual assault or personal assault in service, and a friend or family member was either aware or witnessed it, they could write a statement attesting to the knowledge describing what they know or saw if there are no records to corroborate the assault. A veteran also may write their own statement explaining their experience.
Statements can also be used to help support a claim for an increased rating for a service-connected condition. These statements should focus on the veteran’s symptoms based off of what the witness has experienced with the veteran. It is always better to include as much information as possible relating to the worsening, severity, and frequency of the veteran’s symptoms. It is a good idea to review the requirements or rating schedule for that condition to see where the veteran’s symptoms fit in the rating schedule for that service-connected condition.
How do I write a statement in support of my VA Claim?
Because statements can be powerful pieces of evidence to help support a claim there a few things to keep in mind:
- Statements should be written in the witness’ own words. They should only speak to what they know what they have personally witnessed.
- Keep the statement consistent. It is very important to keep the facts of the incident or injury as consistent as possible. If there are multiple inconsistencies from the veteran or the witnesses writing the statement, the VA may try and say that the veteran and/or witness is not credible.
- Be sure to include the contact information of the witness writing the statement if the VA were to have any questions.
- The statement should state how the witness knows the veteran.
- There should always be a signature of the person writing the statement.
- It is a good idea to put the statement on a VA Form 21-4138, Statement in Support of Claim.
All in all, statements can be very helpful to your VA disability claim. Whether the VA is disputing that your injury or traumatic event occurred in service, or your medical records are not as strong as you would like them to be, you may need to consider writing a statement or having a friend or family member write one for you.