A lay statement, also referred to as a buddy statement, is testimony given by a veteran or trusted individual to establish a disability or demonstrate a disability’s impact. Lay statements may be presented through a written report or orally during a hearing. In many cases, lay evidence adds context and detail about how a disability has affected a veteran’s life. In other words, a lay statement often compliments a medical diagnosis or professional opinion.
Lay statements may be given by the disabled veteran, their commanding officer, a fellow servicemember, or loved ones of the veteran. They can provide an account of how a disabled veteran became injured during their active duty service and help establish when and where the injury occurred.
Lay evidence could also be provided by a friend, co-worker, or spouse to explain how a service-connected injury has affected a disabled veteran. Specifically, lay statements provided by civilians could describe how an injury has impacted a former servicemember’s daily activity, mental state, and family life.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), lay evidence is a valid way to establish a service-connected injury in cases where Service Treatment Records (STRs) are missing or not available. However, evidence provided in a buddy statement must be deemed by the VA as satisfactory, consistent with the service position and credible despite a lack of official records.
In many cases, the VA considers several factors when determining the value of a lay statement. This includes the accuracy of an individual’s memory, their level of competency, and their direct knowledge of the described event. Additionally, how recently the event occurred may also affect the value of a buddy statement.
Because of the scrutiny applied to lay statements, there are some best practices that individuals should adhere to when creating them. A medical professional or expert may need to prove a specific medical condition or diagnosis. However, providing as much accurate information as possible could help facilitate the VA disability claims process. Additionally, individuals should avoid offering criticism of the VA or other unnecessary information in a lay statement, as doing so could hurt a veteran’s chances of obtaining disability benefits.
Managing a VA disability case can quickly become overwhelming for individuals without legal representation. An experienced veterans’ disability attorney at our firm can help you navigate the VA disability claims process and receive the compensation you deserve. Call us today to schedule a consultation.