A Buddy Letter, also known as a Statement in Support of Claim or Statement of Witness, is a written statement from a friend, family member, or fellow service member to support your VA disability claim.
Buddy Letters provides additional evidence or context for your service-related injury or condition by offering a personal account of the events, experiences, and symptoms related to the condition.
Selecting the Right Buddy
Choosing the right person to write a Buddy Letter for you is crucial. In general, they can be written from anyone who can provide different perspective and insights on your case. While a fellow service member may precisely describe the in-service event that led to your disability, your spouse will be more aware of how it affects your everyday life and employability.
Here are some good examples of people who can write a Buddy Letter and can provide strong evidence for your case:
- Fellow Service Members, Unit Commanders, or Officers
These are the people who served with you, observed your service, and can give first-hand accounts of the conditions and circumstances surrounding the claimed disability.
- Friends and Family including Adult Children
Close friends and family members write compelling Buddy Letters as they are are aware of your experiences and the impact of the disability on your daily life and wellbeing.
- Medical Professionals
A medical professional who has treated you can attest to the connection between the disability and your military service, filling some gaps in your medical records.
A caregiver may have unique insights into your condition, treatment, and how it affects every aspect of your life.
While people who write Buddy Letters often have strong personal relationships with you, it is vital to put emotions aside and provide relevant and credible information to support your disability claim.
Let’s look at the structure of a compelling Buddy Letter.
How to Write a Buddy Letter
While there is no official form or demands for a Buddy Letter, it is vital to make sure that the statement is structured carefully.
Here are the essential parts of a Buddy Letter:
Every statement should include the full name, contact details, and description of the relationship between the person who is writing the letter and the Veteran.
If the letter is written by a fellow service member or commander, it is essential to include details about the unit and location assigned. If the author has any relevant qualifications or expertise related to the disability or medical field, they should mention them to establish their credibility.
- Details of the Disability
Next, the author of the Buddy Letter should describe everything they know about the disability or condition in detail, including its name, symptoms, and how it affects your daily life and ability to work (e.g., how the disability limits your mobility, causes pain, or affects your cognitive abilities).
- Connection to Military Service
The buddy letter must explain how the disability is related to your military service and contain specific information about the time, place, and circumstances of the injury or exposure that led to the disability.
- Medical Evidence, if applicable
If the statement is written by someone who has access to your medical records, reports, or diagnoses that support the disability claim, they should refer to these documents, and explain how they relate to your case.
The letter should be signed and dated in writing. By signing the Statement, a person acknowledges that the provided information is correct to the best of their knowledge.
Common Buddy Letter Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
A Buddy Letter can be a crucial piece of evidence in your VA disability case, and it is vital to avoid the mistakes that can invalidate it:
- Avoid Vague Statements.
Vague or general statements, as well as assumptions without specific details can weaken the letter’s impact. Make sure to includes concrete examples and details about your condition and how it relates to your military service.
- Be Credible.
Back up your case by including military ranks, relevant qualifications, expertise, proof of personal acquaintance or close connection
- Avoid Exaggerations and Negative Tone.
Use a respectful and professional tone even if the Buddy Letter covers challenging and sensitive topics.
- Steer Clear of Falsehoods and Incomplete Statements.
Hardly anything can be more damaging for your case than a Buddy Letter with inaccurate information. It can affect the overall credibility of your VA disability claim. Make sure that the statement comes from people who provide meaningful statements and provide relevant evidence.
How to Submit a Buddy Letter
Two VA forms can be used to submit a Buddy Letter:
- VA Form 21-10210
This form can be used to submit a formal statement to support your VA claim—or the claim of another Veteran or eligible family member.
- VA Form 21-4138
Also called a Statement in Support of Claim, this form allows you provide additional information to support your claim related to various subjects including healthcare and disability.
Technically, the VA does not have any specific requirements for a Buddy Letter submission. So, the statement can even be written by hand or composed in MS Word. However, we recommend using one of the above submission forms to avoid any confusion.
Buddy Letters can be a vital tool in the VA disability claiming process since they can provide invaluable firsthand accounts and evidence to support your case, lending more credibility to your VA disability claim. Looking to talk to a qualified professional about your Buddy Letter, schedule a 30-minute call with one of our Veteran Specialists today.