A buddy letter, also known as a “Statement in Support of a Claim,” is a written statement from a friend, family member, or fellow service member that supports a veteran’s disability claim. Buddy letters can provide valuable additional evidence in a claim, particularly in cases where a veteran’s medical records do not fully document their injury or illness or the impact on their daily life. However, it’s important to note that buddy letters are not always necessary or appropriate for every claim.
When it comes to filing a claim, a personal statement can be a crucial part of supporting your evidence. It adds a personal touch and can really help to strengthen your case. However, there are other forms of evidence that can also be considered, such as buddy letters. Buddy letters are essentially statements written by someone who knows you well, but not by you personally. This could be a spouse, co-worker, fellow service member, friend or employer.
At VDC, we understand the importance of Statements in Support of A Claim, and we want to provide clarity around the use of buddy letters. While there are times these can be essential, we’ve learned through experience that they may not be necessary in most cases. In fact, they could even damage your ability for a successful claim. It’s essential to understand the role of each piece of evidence and how it will contribute to your claim. Ultimately, the strength of your claim will be determined by the quality of your evidence and how well it supports your case.
ALTERNATIVE TO BUDDY LETTERS: WHAT TO USE INSTEAD
When service treatment records are unavailable or your current symptoms are not well-documented, a Statement in Support of Claim (personal statement) can significantly bolster your claim. Crafting a thorough and persuasive statement is a crucial part of presenting a fully-developed claim, which has a higher chance of approval and a quicker processing time. We at VDC Bootcamp focus on assisting veterans with building and winning claims through utilizing this asset. To create a Statement in Support of Claim, you can use VA Form 21-4138, which we highly recommend for providing key supporting evidence in most claims.
WHEN TO USE A BUDDY LETTER?
Buddy letters can be particularly helpful in cases where a veteran’s medical records do not fully document their injury or illness, or in cases where their disability has worsened over time. Buddy letters can provide a narrative of how the veteran’s condition has progressed and how it affects their daily life. Buddy letters can also be useful in cases where the veteran’s injury or illness was not caused by combat, as they can provide additional evidence of the circumstances that led to their disability.
While there are many cases where obtaining a buddy letter to support a claim may not be necessary for veterans, there are certain circumstances where having one can significantly strengthen your claim. These types of claims include:
In some cases, medical records may be lost or misplaced by the VA, or may have never existed at all due to the nature of combat situations. If a veteran suffers an injury or event that doesn’t require immediate medical treatment or diagnosis, having a credible statement from a fellow service member who witnessed the incident can make a significant difference in the success of the claim.
Lost Medical Records
After several years, medical records are often destroyed by medical facilities. In situations where medical records are no longer available, a credible statement from a buddy can be used to fill the gap in treatment dates. Buddy letters, along with personal statements, can be particularly valuable when medical documentation is lacking.
For some mental health-related disability claims, having a friend or family member who knew the veteran before their military service and observed them after can be beneficial. Loved ones who have witnessed changes in the veteran’s behavior can provide the most credible observations of the veteran’s symptoms during the period when they were struggling to enter back into society and lead a productive life. They can help fill the gaps created by lost or nonexistent medical records or provide information about the veteran’s difficulties with day-to-day activities and interactions with others.
HOW TO WRITE A BUDDY LETTER FOR VA DISABILITY CLAIMS: TEMPLATE AND EXAMPLE
If you are writing a buddy letter in support of a veteran’s disability claim, it’s important to be clear and concise, and to provide specific details about the veteran’s injury or illness. Here are some tips to help you write an effective buddy letter:
- Begin with an introduction: Identify yourself and explain your relationship to the veteran. Provide any relevant background information that will help the reader understand your perspective.
- Describe the veteran’s injury or illness: Describe the circumstances that led to the veteran’s injury or illness, including the time and place of the incident. Be as specific as possible about the nature of the injury or illness.
- Describe the veteran’s symptoms: Explain the symptoms that the veteran experiences as a result of their injury or illness. Provide specific examples of how the symptoms affect their daily life.
- Provide your observations: Describe any observations you have made about the veteran’s condition over time, including any changes or improvements you have noticed. Be as specific as possible about the impact of the veteran’s disability on their daily life.
- Conclude your letter: Thank the reader for their time and consideration. Provide your contact information in case they have any further questions.
Here is a link to a sample buddy letter form.
WRITING A BUDDY LETTER FOR VA DISABILITY CLAIMS: AN EXAMPLE FOR SPOUSES
PART 1: HOW DO YOU KNOW THE VETERAN?
“I am Sarah Smith, and I am the wife of veteran John Smith. I am writing this statement on behalf of my husband, John. I have known John since 2005 when we met while studying at university. We got married in 2010 and have been together for over a decade. Over the years, we have shared many experiences and have been each other’s support system.”
PART 2: WHAT YOU WITNESSED OR ARE WITNESSING.
“Before joining the military, John was a happy, outgoing, and optimistic person. However, after serving in Afghanistan in 2011, he returned home with severe PTSD. He had nightmares, flashbacks, and would often isolate himself from others. He struggled with adjusting to civilian life and found it challenging to keep a job due to his condition. I have seen him struggle with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.”
PART 3: THE VETERAN’S CURRENT SYMPTOMS.
“Currently, John experiences panic attacks, hypervigilance, and anxiety almost daily. He has difficulty sleeping and gets triggered easily by things that remind him of his time in Afghanistan. He avoids social situations and has trouble forming and maintaining relationships. He has sought help from the VA, but his condition has not improved significantly.”
PART 4: SIGN AND DATE YOUR NAME, AND CERTIFY THAT YOUR STATEMENT IS TRUE “TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND BELIEF.”
Signed, Sarah Smith, March 28, 2023
“I CERTIFY THAT the statements on this form are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.”
PART 5: CERTIFICATION
Sign and date the letter, and certify that your statement is true to the best of your knowledge and belief.
“Signed, John Smith, January 23, 2019. I certify that the statements on this form are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.”
Buddy letters may not be necessary for your VA claim and could even do more harm than good. They can introduce confusion and doubt about the accuracy of your claim, making it difficult for VA adjudicators to determine the facts about your condition. Instead, craft a clear and consistent personal statement to tell your story.
If you need further assistance, feel free to reach out to us. For those ready to start winning their VA claims, check out our website to know more.