A buddy letter—also known as a “Statement in Support of Claim” by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)—can help support your VA disability claim by providing an eyewitness report that substantiates your disability and when it happened. This letter may be necessary if there is a lack of evidence in your military record that you witnessed a certain incident, experienced an event, or were at a certain location. Providing a buddy letter is especially helpful if your claim is for a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
There are basically two types of buddy statements: those written by military co-workers and those written by family members or close, personal friends. Both types have benefits, but each has a different focus and purpose. These letters can be written or typed on basic letter-sized paper or on the VA form.
Buddy Statements From Co-Workers
A buddy statements from a military co-worker helps establish your whereabouts when your service-connected disability occurred and the circumstances surrounding the incident. Ideally, this statement should be written by someone who was with you when the incident took place. It’s helpful if the statement is written from someone in your squad or platoon or who with you during the majority of your deployment.
For example, if your military vehicle hit an improvised explosive device (IED) or you were frequently exposed to sudden blasts and now suffer from migraine headaches, your letter should come from someone who was in the vehicle with you or witnessed the many times you experienced these loud blasts. The statement should include as many details as possible about the incident and how it impacted you, including when you began experiencing migraines. Did the headaches occur immediately following the blast or explosion? Did you seek treatment for these headaches? If so, what action did you take to resolve them? What, specifically, did you say to the co-worker about your migraines and how debilitating they were? If your combat situation included many recurrences of explosions and blasts, the co-worker can focus on how often you were exposed to the noise with focus on the most significant and worst episode.
The VA often advises veterans to provide a buddy statement to establish combat facts, your work activities while in the military, and observed changes in behavior—all to support the disability claim. During war and combat, sometimes only soldiers who experienced the conflict or event can know what happened during a specific incident. There are difficult cases that involve soldiers who don’t have a military occupational specialty (MOS) or took part in combat that was never recorded by the unit they were in. In this case, a veteran can retain a military historian who reviews the records of that unit to determine what events occurred in that area at the time of the military service. Ultimately, a buddy statement from someone who experienced the same events with you can verify your exposure to the IED event and other explosive devices that caused your migraines.
Buddy Statements From Friends and Family Members
A buddy statement from a family member or friend is different from a letter from a co-worker. The obvious difference is that these people didn’t serve with you in the military. But another difference is that their letters won’t focus on what caused your disability; rather, they will focus on how the disability has impacted you and those around you. Preferably, these letters will detail your behavior and attitude before your deployment and compare them to how you appear now. Here are some questions a friend or family member should consider when writing a buddy letter:
- Was the veteran a happy, patient, easy-going person who is now irritable, exhausted, or easily provoked?
- Have migraines changed the veteran’s behavior? In what ways?
- How have these headaches impacted the veteran’s daily life and routine?
- Is the veteran unable to enjoy the same activities, interests, and exercise he once participated in?
- How have the migraines affected the veteran’s relationships with his spouse, wife, and friends?
- How have the migraines impacted the veteran’s ability to work?
The objective of the statement is to provide the person processing your claim a close look at your daily life and how your migraine headaches are negatively impacting how you live and your relationships. The writer of this type of buddy statement should be extremely honest and reveal the hard truths about what happened to you. It is important to consult with your lawyer to make sure your buddy statement covers the elements necessary, if possible, to establish your claim.
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.