Most veterans are familiar with VA Form 4138, the Statement in Support of Claim. This is a multi-purpose form that has been used by the VA for many years, on which veterans are able to write any information that they would like the VA to know. One important use of the VA Form 4138 is in the title of the form itself – writing a statement in support of your claim for service connection. Today we are going to discuss how to write a convincing statement in support of your claim.
The First Step
Writing a convincing statement in support of the claim is deciding what you want the statement to accomplish. Do you want to write about all the pending claims you have before the VA, or just one or two? Is the claim you are writing about a claim for an increased rating or a claim for service connection? Are you making a new claim for service connection in your statement? Have you written a statement on this claim before? Answering all these questions will give you a good idea where to start.
Let’s take a look at the first question: Do you want to write about all the pending claims you have before the VA, or just one or two? Some veterans choose to write statements about all the claims they have pending before the VA, while others either write one statement per claim or even only write statements for the claims that are their highest priority. One strategy you may want to follow is to keep similar claims in the same statement. For instance, if you have a PTSD or mental health claim and a few orthopedic or physical claims, you may want to write separate statements for the mental health and physical claims. This not only makes it easier for you to keep your thoughts organized and on track, but may make it easier for the VA to focus on the specific issues you are discussing. Of course, if your physical claims are tied into your mental health claim, you may want to discuss them all together. As you can see, this depends on the particular circumstances of your case, and there is really no wrong answer.
The Second Step
You need to keep in mind is whether you are writing about a claim for an increased rating or for service connection. If the claim you are writing about is a claim for direct service connection, you are going to want to focus in on the circumstances during service which resulted in your current disability. For instance, if you are claiming a back disability based on a fall during service, you will want to describe all the circumstances surrounding the fall, in as much detail as you remember. It may be difficult to remember the details many years later, but you may remember sounds you heard before your fall or the feeling of the ground hitting your back. You should try to describe what you remember immediately before and immediately after the fall. Do you remember what you, or anyone around you said? Any details like that help your statement come to life and make it more convincing to the reader.
If you are writing about a claim for an increased rating, you are going to want to focus on how your disability has worsened over the years. Again, go into as much detail as you can, and include dates as often as you can (the month and year is good, or even the season if you are unable to remember more specifically). It is important to write about how your disability has been impacting your day to day life, as well as any secondary problems that it has caused. For instance, say you are writing a statement for and increased rating for your right knee condition. You should go into detail about any specific instances you remember of your right knee giving out, or being swollen or too painful to bend or extend. Instead of writing “In March 2016, my knee gave out and I fell down,” a stronger, more convincing sentence would be “In March 2016, I was taking my dog for a short walk down the block and I felt my knee give way. Before I knew it I was on the ground and lying on the sidewalk. I could not stop myself from falling when my knee gave out.” As you can see, adding a few details makes your story come to life for the reader. Also, you might discuss how due to your worsening right knee pain and instability, you have been putting more weight on your left knee. If you have now developed problems in your left knee, you may want to file a claim for that secondary condition on VA Form 526EZ.
The Final Step
Keep in mind whether you have written a statement on this particular claim before. If you have written a statement on this claim before, you should make sure that this new statement is filling in any gaps of that other statement. For instance, if you wrote a statement about your PTSD before that focused mostly on your interactions with friends and family, you may want to focus on a second statement on how your PTSD has impacted your employment and job performance. You want to be sure to cover all bases so that the VA has a complete picture of your disability.
As you can see, writing a convincing statement in support of a claim is a great tool to have at your disposal. It is important to go into as much detail as possible in order to make your statement come to life for the VA. Also, make sure that you are giving the VA a complete picture of your disability, including the impact your disability has on your day-to-day life, social interactions, and employment. Finally, it may be a good idea to have someone read over the statement for you before you submit it to the VA. They may be able to show you areas where you should go into more detail and help you fill in any gaps in your narrative.