When you make a claim through the VA, there are several ways you can give evidence to further your claim. Some are more obvious, such as medical records, service records, and a professional medical opinion. However, some are not as obvious, such as buddy statements, which can help further prove your disability.
You can use buddy statements to help get a VA disability rating or increase it if necessary. Fellow service members, friends, or even family members can write them. For a buddy statement to be substantial, there is a lot of different information a writer can and should include, which we will go over in this article. We will also go over how friends or family members can write a good buddy statement so the VA will consider it with your claim.
A buddy statement is a statement written by an individual who has knowledge of the Veteran’s injury, illness, or in-service event. They can be written by family members, friends, or fellow service members—essentially anyone close to the Veteran that has insight into their disability.
Buddy statements are important pieces of evidence since they back up a Veteran’s claim. In some scenarios, records are lost, destroyed, or altogether non-existent. In cases like these, where additional evidence is required, buddy statements prove to be a powerful asset for the Veteran.
The VA is required to consider all evidence, including buddy statements. The VA uses this information when granting or denying service connection. Further, this information can be used for the purposes of assigning an appropriate disability rating.
A buddy statement can be written in any way that is convenient for the person writing the statement. The best form to use for lay statements is a VAF 21-10210. This form allows a place for the witness to leave their contact information and specify their relationship with the Veteran. The form has a section called “Statement,” in which an individual can include information they feel is relevant to their disability benefits claim.
When you submit a buddy statement, be sure to include all contact information for the “buddy” in question. The VA likes to double and triple-check records, so they need to be able to contact the person who allegedly gave the buddy statement.
When you fill out the form, you swear that the content is 100% true. Therefore, you should double-check the details of a buddy statement with the person who wrote the statement to make sure you don’t leave anything out or represent anything inaccurately. You can submit buddy statements as notarized documents for extra legitimacy.
As touched on above, anyone who has witnessed or experience with a Veteran’s disability may submit a buddy statement. Therefore, buddy statements can come from:
However, the person submitting the buddy statement has to understand who the Veteran is, what the injury is and how it affects their day-to-day life, and how the event or disability impacts who the Veteran is currently. Because of these requirements, most buddy statements come from fellow servicemembers, who have the best context and most details to offer to the VA.
Buddy statements should focus on certain points to be effective. The better the buddy statement, the more likely you can get the rating you need. The actual contents of the statement should focus on the issue the Veteran is trying to prove whether that be the incident that caused or aggravated the Veteran’s disability, the presence of the disability, the severity of the disability, and so on.
Someone who has served with the Veteran will often write the buddy statement, especially if they were present for the specific event that caused or aggravated the current condition. In some cases, such as PTSD or Agent Orange, buddy statements are useful, since in these cases, it is hard to pinpoint one specific moment that may have caused or aggravated a disability.
However, if the focus of the buddy statement is on an increased rating, rather than trying to get an initial benefit, the statement should focus on how the disability has worsened over time and how the disability affects the Veteran’s daily life.
It can also describe how the disability has affected those close to the Veteran since it usually takes many people to aid a person who is severely disabled. In these cases, buddy statements more often come from family and friends since they are caring for the Veteran. These statements will be crucial for increasing the rating that the Veteran has.
Once the buddy statement is submitted, sometimes, the Veteran is scheduled for a Compensation and Pension examination, which looks over a day in the Veteran’s life to see how their condition has affected them and the people that care for them.
There is no one right time to submit a buddy statement because different buddy statements are used for different reasons. Some are used for the initial claim, while others are used for increased ratings. In general, it never hurts to have a buddy statement.
Even if you have all of the other necessary records for your claim, a buddy statement will only help support your claim. If you have it ahead of time, it can help the VA make a better initial judgment about what kind of rating and benefits you should get.
There should be a certain structure to your buddy statement. When someone writes a buddy statement, they should state who they are, their contact information, and their relationship to the Veteran. This is why it is best if the VAF 21-10210 is used because that information is requested in the form itself. Additionally, if the buddy served with the Veteran in the military, they should put where and when they served.
After introducing who they are, the writer should address the issue they were asked to address. If the statement is submitted to support that an in service event occurred they should describe the event that caused or aggravated the Veteran’s current disability. This is especially important if the person writing the buddy statement served with the Veteran in the military. If they are describing the current condition, they should detail how it has progressed over time or the current level of disability they witnessed.
Then, the person should write their signature and date the document to be considered by the VA. The person should also acknowledge that all the information provided is accurate to their knowledge. There should be no false information in the document. This is not a requirement, but the buddy statement will be more persuasive and given more weight if it is signed, dated, and acknowledged. It is also possible to get your buddy statements notarized to have additional weight assigned to the document.
A buddy statement should be clear and concise, and certain people are better to reach out to depending on what the buddy statement is focusing on.
For example, if you, as a Veteran, suffered from a fall during your time in the military, the best person to write a buddy statement would probably not be your spouse because they were not there to witness the fall. Instead, the best person to reach out would be a fellow service member who witnessed the fall. In these scenarios, you want eyewitness accounts so that the VA will consider your claim all the way through.
However, if your claim focuses on an increased rating, a family member or friend may be the best person to write a buddy statement. These people see how your symptoms have affected your everyday life. Most people who served alongside a Veteran in the military will not witness how the disability has affected their life in the long run. This is why it is important to have an eyewitness account of how the disability caused or aggravated further issues over time from someone with the Veteran daily.
Employees and coworkers can also write effective buddy statements. Many Veterans try to get a total disability rating since they cannot keep a job due to their disability. In this instance, a buddy statement from a coworker that sees how the Veteran’s disability has affected their ability to work can be powerful evidence towards a total disability rating.
Overall, it is best to have the appropriate person write up the buddy statement for the appropriate situation and always check your work and formatting. Every instance in a VA claim is different.
In many cases, a well-written buddy statement can be the difference between a service connection grant or a denial, especially if a Veteran has an injury or disability diagnosis from a medical doctor but nothing in their service treatment record.
Given this importance, let’s take a look at a well-written buddy statement that includes a good amount of specifics:
“We were on deployment in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2018. During routine duties, <Veteran Name> and I was required to carry heavy crates down several flights of stairs. As we carried out this task, <Veteran Name> suffered a sprain to their ankle. Because we needed to complete the work rapidly, we carried on without looking at the ankle.
However, <Veteran Name’s> ankle quickly became worse. I saw it become swollen, purple, and bruised-looking in a matter of hours. Because we had a lot of work, he was not given the opportunity to rest or have it looked at by a medical professional.
Ever since, <Veteran Name> has not walked the same way and has complained about physical pain and lack of mobility in the affected ankle. He has mentioned the discomfort and pain repeatedly since this incident, so I believe it is directly connected to his current issues.
Remember, a buddy statement doesn’t have to be very long. However, it has to describe the disabled Veteran’s initial injury and link it to the current diagnosis or symptoms.
Buddy statements are an important tool when trying to acquire benefits through the VA or trying to increase the rating that you already have. They are often used to help bolster your claim or as a replacement for lost, damaged, or altogether non-existent records.
When writing a buddy statement, make sure it focuses on the current diagnosis you already have. It is best to reach out to people who know the situation the best so that they can provide the most detail when writing the buddy statement.
If you have any questions regarding VA benefits, please visit our website for more information.
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