When it comes to winning your VA Disability Claim, one of the best pieces of evidence you can include is what is known as a Lay Statement. A lay statement is a testimony by someone that knows you and has known you long enough to describe your life before, during, and after your service.
In this article about VA disability lay statements:
- Prove to the VA that Your Disability is a Big Deal with Lay Statements
- How Do You Write a Lay Statement?
- Buddy statements – Who Saw You Get Injured and Keep Going
- Spouse Statements are the Best, Even from Your Ex
- Statement from Parents and Siblings are the Second-Best Lay Statements
- Get a Lay Statement from an Old Boss to Apply for 100% TDIU Benefits
- The Details of Your Lay Statements Depend on your Goal
- Show Multiple Disabilities Compound Problems for Vets with Lay Statements
- Lay Statement from a Protected Work Environment Can Help with TDIU
- Need a Free Example Lay Statement?
- Using the SOC to write Lay Statements
- The Federal Circuit Court Ruled that Lay Statements Count
- Don’t Get Denied for Lack of Evidence
Woods & Woods VA disability attorney explains why lay statements are so important to veteran benefits claims:
Prove to the VA that Your Disability is a Big Deal with Lay Statements
The VA denies claims all the time because there wasn’t enough evidence for the claim. That’s why applying for VA disability is so much more than just filling out forms. When you get help from Woods and Woods to apply for VA disability, we walk you and your family through the whole process. We paint a full picture and tell the VA your story accurately so that you get the best claim possible.
How Do You Write a Lay Statement?
At the simplest, a lay statement comes from a spouse saying something like “My husband was energetic before he went to Iraq. Since he came back, he doesn’t want to go outside with our kids and play or go out to eat.” Your spouse will write up a statement that details aspects of your life that are affected by a service-connected disability.
It is called a lay statement because it isn’t coming from a professional. Professional evidence is of the utmost importance in your disability case. You don’t want to apply for disability without a professional statement service-connecting your medical problems to your active duty. The lay statement isn’t from a professional, but it paints a picture of your daily life. A doctor might say that your neck pain is service connected, but the VA will listen when your wife tells them about how your neck pain makes you unemployable.
There are several specific kinds of lay statements you can include:
Buddy statements – Who Saw You Get Injured and Keep Going
- Someone in your unit who went through it with you.
- A sergeant who led the unit.
- A commanding officer who might not have been there but issued the order that caused your injury.
- Other service members in the same place at the same time. Look on Facebook, Reddit, or other forums to find them.
Spouse Statements are the Best, Even from Your Ex
- Spouse statements are the best kind if you can’t get a report from someone that was there when it happened.
- They share an intimate insight into your moods and routine.
- They know first-hand how it affects your daily life.
- Many of the spouses and ex-spouses we talk to find it a huge relief to talk to someone about their veteran’s struggles. Even ex-wives are very helpful when it comes to lay statements!
Statement from Parents and Siblings are the Second-Best Lay Statements
We admit that it’s a hard thing to do, but a VA lay statement from one of your siblings is the next best evidence after a VA disability spouse statement.
- Your brother or sister has known you the longest.
- A sibling statement can paint a full picture of before, during, and after your service.
- Siblings tend to be more brutal and critical, which is what you want in a lay statement (they don’t have to look you in the face as they write it!).
- Sometimes this is the only chance a mother or sister has to talk through the impact of your disability.
A sibling or parent statement can be strong evidence for a range of VA disability applications. If you are seeking a higher rating or appealing a case, it can also serve as new evidence if you didn’t include a statement from them in your first application. A parent or sibling should focus on your work and home limitations if you are applying for physical disabilities. If you are applying for mental disabilities, they should focus on your behavior. If you can’t bathe or take care of your personal hygiene, your mother or siblings should be open to sharing about that and its effects.
It can be a sad phone call, but our interview team can help walk them through the interview. We help your relatives support you and your claim. All of the information is strictly confidential and goes into your file. As a veteran, you have complete access to your file at any time, but you do not have to review the complete lay statements.
Remember, your team at Woods and Woods is looking out for your best interests in your VA application. There is not much that a spouse or brother can say that can wreck your VA disability application. If you let them know in advance about their interview with us, it can help your claim immeasurably. In under an hour, we can help them write up a lay statement that will clearly plead your case with the VA.
Get a Lay Statement from an Old Boss to Apply for 100% TDIU Benefits
If you had a job one summer before you enlisted, you’ll want a VA lay summary from that boss about what a great job you did. You want them to be specific. If you are applying for a leg injury, make sure they talk about how much walking you did. If you are applying to get VA disability for a back injury, you want lay evidence that mentions any heavy lifting you did on the job.
If you had a job since you have been out of the service and got fired, you want a lay statement from that old boss. Yep, even if they are a real jerk, their complaint about you could really help your claim. You want to focus on your limitations if you are applying for disability compensation. The VA check is meant to compensate, or make up for, what you can’t do anymore because of your active service. If you can’t work, you want a former employer to write a lay summary proving it.
If you get in touch with a buddy that was around the burn pits with you, then he should contact us too. We can help you each write a buddy statement for each other and help both of your claims.
The very best place to go if you are a veteran and you need help with your disability compensation case.Woods and Woods are extremely knowledgeable. My case worker was Sarah Small and she was in constant contact with me either by phone or by mail throughout the entire process. The V.A. denied my claim time and time again over several years. When I contacted Woods and Woods they assured me they would work their hardest to help me win my case. Guess what , they won my appeal. Thank you Sarah and Woods and Woods you’re the best.James from February 2019 on Google
The Details of Your Lay Statements Depend on your Goal
Depending on what stage of the application you are in can change the goal of the lay statements you include in your claim.
- Are you unemployable? You need details about how you do at work.
- Are you appealing? You need new evidence that hasn’t been submitted before.
- Are you trying to get an increased rating? You need evidence that builds on what the VA has already approved.
First, you have to focus on getting your disabilities service-connected. Your lay statements would focus on before and after descriptions. You’ll want to make it clear that the disabilities you are applying for happened during your active service.
Next, you want to explain the activities you enjoy that you can no longer do. A simple statement from a high school coach is enough to establish that you used to be able to run, jump, and be active. A statement from a teacher or classmate is enough to establish that you used to be outgoing and positive in school.
One veteran had a picture during his active duty that showed him sitting with a posture that would come from back pain. Testimony from another buddy in that picture was all it took to service-connect his back pain. You might not have a slam-dunk case like a picture of your injury in Vietnam or Iraq, but if your brother has a letter you wrote describing it, that might be enough.
Show Multiple Disabilities Compound Problems for Vets with Lay Statements
The VA is terrible at connecting multiple disabilities and seeing how they mix to make you unemployable. You might be able to carry heavy weight, but you struggle interacting with men in authority after an episode of Military Sexual Trauma. The only way that is going to be connected is through a lay statement from your boss talking about how you respond to criticism at work.
A lay summary from someone that sees your daily life is a perfect document for an IU statement. Your struggle with yard work, bills, finances, bathing, or any other marked decompensation should be mentioned. How would a competitive work environment be awful for you? How would you respond to a customer that was irate about something that isn’t your fault?
Lay Statement from a Protected Work Environment Can Help with TDIU
You might be able to get an accommodation statement from your boss if you are currently working. Your last job, if you are unemployed, might be willing to give you one also. In a protected work environment, what were your co-workers doing for you? If you were in a sheltered workplace, what leniency were they showing you because of your condition? Did they let you come in late? Did they let you miss days without notice or were you the only employee that got to sit down all day long? All of these things show that even though you were working, it wasn’t a normal work environment.
This statement can also relate to a mental health claim. If all your other co-workers took phone calls but you didn’t because of your anxiety, you want a co-worker to mention that in a lay statement. If you had to be sent home every time a customer was angry or had frequent arguments/outbursts at work, you want that written down by a co-worker, even if they call you a jerk.
Need a Free Example Lay Statement?
You can write your own sworn statement but make sure you include the following:
- “I [your full name] hereby swear and affirm that…” at the beginning.
- Give specific details, such as date, location, time of day.
- Avoid opinions, suggestions, or relative statements, like “we were tired.”
- Finish with “I swear under penalty of perjury that the information I have provided is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge, information, and belief.”
The VA Form 21-4138 can be used for this or you can get help from a professional VA lawyer that has used hundreds of these forms to help veterans just like you. We will work with your former boss, parents, friends from high school, and others to get a well-written lay statement into your case.
The lay statement has to be competent and credible. If it’s a medical statement, it should be from a doctor or another medical specialist. If it is a statement about your mood, or disposition changing for a PTSD benefits claim, it should be from people that are close to you. These people can include your spouse, ex-spouse, brothers and sisters, other family members, or old friends.
Using the SOC to write Lay Statements
The SOC (Statement of the Case) can be your ticket to know which lay statements you need for a strong appeal. Give your SOC to your attorney so they can translate it into plain English. Your SOC should explain in detail each shortfall of evidence in your claim. This is another reason why you should hire a professional (for free until you win your case) so that an expert can look through the exact nature of your denial. One simple phrase like “but he does drive our delivery car” can expose a weakness in your claim.
The Federal Circuit Court Ruled that Lay Statements Count
After being denied disability for a shoulder injury, Alva Jandreau eventually won his disability claim. The regional office denied the claim. The BVA (Board of Veterans’ Appeals) denied the claim. Eventually, the appeal went to the Federal Circuit Court and they ruled that the competent statements of a layperson can be worthy evidence in a case. The case even has a Wikipedia page that details what makes lay statements “competent and sufficient to establish a diagnosis”:
1. A layperson is competent to identify the medical condition,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jandreau_vs._Nicholson 492 f.3d 1372
2. The layperson is reporting a contemporaneous medical diagnosis, or
3. Lay testimony describing symptoms at the time supports a later diagnosis by a medical professional.
Don’t Get Denied for Lack of Evidence
We never want to get a letter back from the VA that one of our veterans didn’t have enough evidence for their claim. Our whole team works with you, your spouse, your kids, and even your co-workers to build the best case for your VA disability. You can contact us and begin the process today. We never call anyone that you don’t permit us to call, and we don’t charge any fees for the work until you have won your claim.
Contact us today to see how we can build a strong VA Disability Claim for you or your deceased spouse. (866)232-5777
Woods and Woods has helped thousands of veterans with their VA disability applications and appeals. Call us today to discuss your VA disability appeal or your first application. The call is free and we won’t charge you a single fee until we win your case.
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