Intelligent, Aggressive Representation For The Injured And Disabled

Attorneys Gardberg & Kemmerly
Photo of attorneys Jonathan P. Gardberg and Colin Edward Kemmerly

Buddy Statements

by | Jul 21, 2023 | Veterans Disability Benefits |

When seeking to obtain entitlement to service connection for various conditions, Veterans are required to establish that certain conditions had their onset, in one way or another, during their active duty service. Unfortunately for those individuals who served many years ago, the service treatment records and/or personnel records have somehow been lost, destroyed, or are otherwise unrecoverable.

The VA recognizes that the lost records which cannot be used are a detriment to the Veteran. Therefore, to assist the Veterans in obtaining their disability compensation, the VA allows for the admission of certain lay statements, known as a “buddy statements,” to help support a determination that the claimed events actually occurred. While these statements are not guaranteed to be accepted as evidence sufficient for service connection, the statements can be extremely valuable where the evidence otherwise fails to show that these events occurred.

38 C.F.R. § 3.102 provides that the VA is to give the benefit of the doubt to the Veteran in assessing entitlement to these benefits. Because of this benefit of the doubt analysis, the VA will often accept a Veteran’s “buddy statement” so long as there is no evidence which shows the events did not occur.

“When, after careful consideration of all procurable and assembled date, a reasonable doubt arises regarding service origin, the degree of disability, or any other point, such doubt will be resolved in favor of the claimant. By reasonable doubt is meant one which exists because of an approximate balance of positive and negative evidence which does not satisfactorily prove or disprove the claim… Mere suspicion or doubt as to the truth of any statements submitted, as distinguished from impeachment or contradiction by evidence or known facts, is not justifiable basis for denying the application of the reasonable doubt doctrine if the entire, complete record otherwise warrants invoking this doctrine.”

Therefore, “buddy statements” may be used in conjunction with the benefit of the doubt doctrine, laid out in §3.102, to establish that an injury, event, or illness actually occurred in service.

By way of example, imagine that Veteran “A” experienced a car accident while he was on active duty through which he developed a severe anxiety about driving and operating motor vehicles. This anxiety has led to a number of different mental and physical conditions as Veteran no longer leaves the house. However, the medical and personnel records regarding the motor vehicle accident have not been uncovered. Veteran requests that his mate, Veteran “B”, who was involved in the accident, draft a statement that the accident actually occurred. If this is the only evidence in the Veteran’s claims file to show one way or another that the event actually occurred, the Veteran is to be given the benefit of the doubt and the VA is to concede that the event occurred. However, the benefit of the doubt is often inappropriately refused.

In this scenario, if there is any evidence showing that the event did not occur as stated in the buddy statement, then the VA may have a basis to render the buddy statement insufficient. For example, if there is evidence that Veteran “A” stated during his exit examination that he had never been involved in a motor vehicle accident, that evidence would create a legitimate question as to the validity of the statement of Veteran “B” and would likely be used to impeach the statement from Veteran “B.”

This type of evidence is most common in claims for PTSD. Specifically claims for PTSD related to Military Sexual Trauma (“MST”). Many time the Veteran’s MST goes unreported due to embarrassment, fear of retaliation, or threats. Therefore, there may be no indication whatsoever in the Veteran’s claims file that this event occurred. A well-drafted buddy statement with specific information about the event helps to establish that the event occurred. In general terms, the more specific a statement is, the more weight that it carries when trying to establish that the event, injury or illness actually occurred.

If you have any questions about buddy statements or your VA disability case, the qualified Veterans’ Disability attorneys at Gardberg and Kemmerly want to help in any way possible. Gardberg and Kemmerly is committed to helping injured and disabled Veterans obtain the benefits they deserve.  If you need help with a disability claim, call our office at 251-343-1111 or 1-800-332-1529 for a free consultation. Gardberg and Kemmerly is proud to serve Veterans across the country from our home office in Mobile, Alabama. We would love an opportunity to discuss your claim.



RSS Feed