When you’re preparing your application for VA disability benefits, it’s vital that you submit as much evidence as possible to support your claim. While evidence from medical experts is certainly important, there’s another type of evidence that’s often overlooked: the buddy statement.
Purpose of Buddy Statements
Buddy statements are considered a type of “competent lay evidence” that is provided by a person with no specialized skills, training, or experience. The person is simply describing what they have witnessed.
Buddy statements can serve several different purposes:
- To corroborate your account of the in-service event that caused your condition
- To compare how you were before your service to how you are now
- To confirm your account of your specific symptoms
- To demonstrate the ways in which your condition limits your ability to interact with loved ones and participate in previously enjoyed hobbies
- To elaborate on how your condition affects your ability to work and why you should receive Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits
There is no limit to the number of buddy statements you can submit with your application. In many cases, you can submit additional buddy statements with your appeal.
Qualifications for Writing a Buddy Statement
A buddy statement can be written by anyone who has insight into a particular aspect of your disability. There are no specific requirements as to who can write a letter, as long as the person is over the age of 18.
Buddy statements from family and friends should be from individuals you see often. If you’re married, your spouse is an ideal candidate. It’s also helpful if the person knew you both before and after your service, which is why siblings, parents, and childhood friends can often make persuasive writers.
If you are seeking TDIU benefits, buddy statements can be from current or former supervisors or co-workers. Effective letter writers should have detailed knowledge of your daily work routine and any accommodations that were being made for your disability.
Finding a veteran to corroborate your account of an in-service event is generally more difficult than obtaining a buddy statement from a family member, friend, supervisor, or co-worker. If you haven’t kept in contact with those you served with during your deployment, a local veterans service organization such as the American Legion or AMVETS may be able to help you search for suitable letter writers. If you have a name and partial contact information, the National Archives Military Personnel Record Center (MPRC) can forward information to the last known address of the veteran you wish to get into contact with.
What an Effective Buddy Statement Includes
Buddy statements should be brief but factually accurate. The letter writer should aim to provide specific information in support of your claim for benefits without adding any irrelevant details or speculating on information they have no way of verifying. In most cases, a letter that is three to four paragraphs in length is sufficient.
The statement must include:
- The letter writer’s name and contact information
- How the letter writer knows the person applying for benefits
- What the letter writer witnessed or is currently witnessing
- The letter writer’s signature and the date the letter was written
Buddy statements can be submitted on VA Form 21-4138 (Statement in Support of Claim). If the statement is not written on this form, it must be notarized and include this sentence at the end of the letter: “I certify that my statements are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.”
It is a good idea to have your attorney review any buddy statements you wish to submit to ensure that they contain all of the necessary information and will be seen as credible support for your application.
Do You Need to Speak With a Veterans Benefits Lawyer?
If you need to speak with an experienced veterans benefits lawyer, please contact us online, or call our Virginia Beach office to schedule your free consultation. We have offices throughout Virginia, including Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk, and Suffolk.