Tips for What to Include in a Buddy Statement for Your VA Disability Claim

When you file a disability claim with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), it’s often helpful to provide a buddy statement with your application or appeal. Also known as a “Statement in Support of Claim,” this letter can provide important evidence Pile of Envelopes Next to an Open Notebook With a Penthat substantiates the location of the event that caused your disability, when the event occurred, and details about the incident. Typically, there are two types of buddy statements you can provide with your claim: those written by military co-workers and those written by friends and family members. While each type of statement has a different purpose and focus, both can be beneficial and help to your claim. An accredited Veteran's lawyer can help identify the issues that you need to prove with your statement

Understanding Both Types of Buddy Statements

Sometimes, events that take place in combat are never recorded by a military unit. Veterans involved in those events may find it challenging to file a claim about a disability they believe began because of that event. Having a buddy statement from someone who experienced the event alongside you or witnessed your involvement can be very helpful. Here is a brief overview of the content differences in a statement from a co-worker and one from a friend or family member:

  • Buddy statement from co-workers. When a military co-worker writes a buddy letter for you, he is helping to establish where your service-connected disability took place and the details about the event. The co-worker writing the letter should be someone who was with you and witnessed the event that caused or aggravated your disability. It’s helpful if someone from your unit or who served in combat with you writes this statement, and it should detail as much about the event as possible—how it impacted you, any change in behavior or physical health, and the type of treatment you needed. 
  • Buddy statement from friends and family members. Because these people didn’t serve in the military with you, the focus of their letters is on how the disability has impacted your life and relationships. Typically, the content will detail your personality characteristics before your military service and compare them to how you appear now. This content should pinpoint changes in behavior, how the disability impacts your daily life and activities, and if the disability has negatively impacted the relationships you have with your spouse, children, and friends.

Tips for Writing a Buddy Statement

There’s no standard way to write a buddy statement, but there are some guidelines that can help make the statement credible and provide support for your VA disability claim. While a “layman’s” statement is not the same as a doctor’s medical opinion, it can corroborate the incident that caused the injury or symptoms. This statement supports your claim that the disability occurred because of your service and helps establish a date for your symptoms. Here are some tips for writing a buddy letter:

  • Keep it short. Remember that the person processing the claim has to read through a lot of information. Keep the letter to one page and just include significant facts and details—don’t send a book.  
  • Include contact information. Anyone writing a buddy letter should include his full contact information, the full name of the veteran for whom the letter is being written, and the date.
  • Include a closing statement. The author of the statement needs to include his printed name and signature, and he should also include a statement to add credibility and validate his claims. If the author isn’t using the VA form 21-4138, he should include this sentence at the end of the statement: “I certify that my statements are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.”
  • Use the VA Form. It’s completely acceptable to submit a buddy letter on a normal, letter-sized piece of paper. However, the author can also hand write or type the statement on the VA form.
  • Don’t spoon-feed the author. If the buddy statement is being written by a family or friend, don’t tell this person what you want to have written about you. The author needs to write in his own words and should never make up or exaggerate facts and details.

If you are seeking VA disability benefits for a service-related illness or condition, we can help you every step of the way, including how to get a buddy statement written from a co-worker, friend, or family member. Contact us at 402-933-5405 to discuss your situation.

 

Sean D. Cuddigan
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska