Providing evidence to show proof of a service-connected disability or illness is often an essential component to any VA disability claim. Relevant evidence comes in various shapes and forms, from service and medical records to doctor statements. Along with records, one of the most effective pieces of evidence is a lay or buddy statement. These statements from people who knew a veteran before, during, or after military service can paint an accurate picture and provide essential information to how a service member’s condition began, worsened over time, and affects daily activities.
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In this article about lay statements
- Support your VA claim with lay statements
- Types of lay statements
- Lay statements from family
- Lay statements from friends
- Lay statements from employers–even in protected work environments
- Lay statements from people who served with you–also called buddy statements
- How to write a lay statement
- Benefits of contacting Woods and Woods
Support your VA claim with lay statements
A lay statement is organic, personal testimony from someone who knows a veteran who is filing a disability claim. The information shared by a “lay” person (someone who is not a trained professional) is meant to accurately describe a veteran’s life before, during, or after the course of military service or in relation to a service connected medical condition. These statements can paint a full picture of how veterans were affected by their time in service or how their condition has worsened since leaving the military. Lay statements provide insight into ways a veteran’s daily life has been altered and can back up a finding from a medical professional.
Types of lay statements
The VA will not seek out lay or buddy statements from a veteran filing a disability benefits claim, which makes it even more important for veterans to know the power they can have over their case. However, the VA has a track record of regarding these statements as credible evidence, especially if they’re done the right way. The statements should directly relate to the disability or illness a veteran is trying to service connect or the severity of the veteran’s service-connected conditions.
The VA and other veterans organizations use alternative terms for lay statements, such as supportive statement, statement in support of claim, or buddy statement. Others might consider a buddy statement to be a specific type of lay statement from someone who served with a veteran, such as someone in the same unit or a superior. No matter what they are called, all lay statements serve the same purpose and work in the same way.
Here are some types of lay statements that may support your VA claim.
Lay statements from family
Family members of veterans have a unique insight into their moods and routines and can provide evidence on how their military service now affects their daily life. The accounts of spouses and ex-spouses can be effective in establishing how a service-related medical condition affects a veteran’s home life and daily activities. Statements from siblings and parents are effective because they’ve known the veteran longest and may be willing to share how their family member’s life has been affected by military service.
Lay statements from friends
Like statements from family, a veteran’s close friends can provide similar insight into how the veteran’s physical or mental health life has been altered by a condition caused or aggravated by military service. Remember, it’s important to discuss in the statement a veteran’s quality of life before, during, and after military service. Friends can provide a comprehensive look into how someone’s well-being shifted.
Lay statements from employers–even in protected work environments
Depending on the type of claim you file, a statement from an employer can be helpful in illustrating the effectiveness and reliability of a veteran’s work. A veteran seeking service connection for a condition may want to ask for a supportive statement from a supervisor at a job he had before joining the military. A veteran requesting an increased rating or VA unemployment benefits might want to ask a current or previous employer for a lay statement that describes how a service-connected injury negatively affected the veteran’s work.
Like in all lay statements, the more specificity the better. For example, if a veteran is applying for a leg injury, make sure the former employer talks about how much walking the person did. If a veteran is applying to get VA disability for a back injury, an employer could mention how much heavy lifting the person did on the job and how that has decreased because of the injury.
Statements from employers where a veteran worked post-military service also can help, even if a veteran was fired or faced consequences because of poor performance resulting from service-connected limitations. This further cements the need for VA disability benefits because the financial assistance is meant to compensate for what a veteran can’t physically or mentally do anymore following service.
For current jobs, an employer could provide an accommodation statement to show how coworkers had to adapt due to the veteran’s disabilities including what leniency a veteran was shown or altered work hours or requirements.
Lay statements from people who served with you–also called buddy statements
When a veteran is trying to establish a service connection to an illness or disability, a statement from someone in the same unit or a commanding officer can make a big difference. People who served alongside you have firsthand, personal knowledge of your experience–whether it be an active duty injury or specific circumstances during training or deployment.
“The VA will not seek out buddy statements for you, but they are very useful tools that the VA will look at and consider as credible evidence if they’re done in the right way,” said Lori Underwood, a VA-certified disability benefits lawyer. “You can use buddy statements to supplement medical evidence or supplement military service records that may be incomplete. You can use them to provide corroborating evidence for your claims.”
The key to a credible buddy statement is to always ensure the information being shared is firsthand knowledge and tailored specifically to the claim.
Underwood offered an example of a veteran who developed depression in the service.
“Someone who knew you before service, during service, and after service, would be an excellent person to provide a buddy statement to explain how your mood changed and how they observed the onset of your depression during service,” she said. “That can provide a great statement to the VA and new and material evidence for reopening a claim for service connection for depression.”
She said that buddy statements can make a difference in a claim for military sexual trauma (MST) because MSTs are not usually documented in a person’s service records. However, a veteran can still prove an MST through a buddy statement.
“If a veteran confided their trauma to someone at the time it occurred, the person could provide a buddy statement to corroborate the account,” Underwood said. “Buddy statements have been very helpful for many veterans in showing the VA that military sexual trauma did exist.”
How to write a lay statement
Veterans may fill out VA Form 21-10210 to submit a lay/witness statement.
A supportive statement should focus on providing competent and credible information that directly relates to the veteran’s disability claim.
You may want to consider the following suggestions: could also include the following information:
- Begin with “I [your full name] hereby swear and affirm that…”
- Give specific details, such as date, location, time of day.
- Avoid opinions, suggestions, or relative statements, like “we were tired.”
Benefits of contacting Woods and Woods
We know not everyone likes to write–especially a formal legal statement. That’s why Woods and Woods has professional lay statement writers who assist veterans with this part of their claim. Our clients provide the names of the people who are willing to provide a statement about the veteran, including a former boss, parents, high school friends, people the person served with, etc. We’ll contact them, ask questions, and develop their statements to be submitted with a claim or appeal.
The VA-certified disability benefits lawyers at Woods and Woods have helped thousands of veterans. Contact 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 unless we win your case.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Lay statements are organic, personal testimony from someone who knows the veteran filing a disability claim. A “lay” person (someone who is not a trained professional) can describe a veteran’s life before, during, or after the course of military service.
The key to a credible buddy statement is to always ensure the information is firsthand knowledge, specific, and tailored to the claim.