by Jerusha Hancock, Veteran’s Attorney
Lay statements can be a powerful tool in your VA disability compensation case, but they can also be used against a veteran. If you are seeking service connection for a condition, or if you are trying to get a higher evaluation, consider these factors before submitting statements, whether those statements are made by you or someone who knows you.
Traumatic events are often processed differently, and therefore your memories of the event may not be accurate. You may also remember additional details later. If there’s significant physical trauma, or a head injury, your memory might be impaired by those factors as well. However, if you or those who know you give inconsistent statements, your credibility can be attacked. Depending on the fact finder, the inconsistencies may be viewed as immaterial, or may be used to determine that you were not being truthful. If there are inconsistent lay statements on the record, it will be important to rehabilitate your statements and show that the inconsistencies are unimportant, or the product of trauma.
Statements from friends and family members can be powerful tools, both to establish service connection and to establish the severity of the condition. Friends and family members can speak to what you were like prior to service, the changes they’ve seen in you, the current level of disability and the effects of flare-ups—basically, anything they might have witnessed. When making a statement, they should only speak to what they know and have seen, and they should be written in their own words. A strong statement will provide specific details.
Lay statements are particularly helpful in situations where the VA is disputing that an injury or traumatic event occurred in service, and your service medical records don’t show that you received treatment. People who saw your injury, or that you told about the event at the time, can write a statement about what they saw or what you told them. Friends and family members can talk about the chronic nature of your symptoms, if there was a gap between service and when you sought treatment. Or if someone who knows you has seen what effect flare ups have, they can speak to that as well.
Berry Law Firm was founded by Vietnam War Veteran and legendary trial lawyer John Stevens Berry Sr. We are proud to have many military Veterans among our attorneys and staff who understand what it means to serve and know, firsthand, the struggles many of our clients face every day.
If your VA disability claim has been denied, Berry Law Firm may be able to help. We have been successfully representing Veterans for decades. Contact us today for a free evaluation.
Our monthly newsletter features about important and up-to-date veterans' law news, keeping you informed about the changes that matter.