There is a longstanding debate about personal statements in disability claims. I was personally shocked to learn that some Veteran Service Officers discourage veterans from writing personal statements for the disability claims. That seemed like horrible advice to give veterans. How else can you get your story out about your disability without telling it?
While a layperson statement is not always going to carry the day, the VA has been forced to consider them as evidence in some situations.
According to an article written by attorney Chris Attig, there are three instances where the VA should consider the statement:
1) a lay person is competent to identify the medical condition (noting that sometimes the lay person will be competent to identify the condition where the condition is simple, for example a broken leg, and sometimes not, for example, a form of cancer:In addition, Attig goes on to point out that “a Veteran can attest to factual matters of which he has first-hand knowledge, such as experiencing pain in service, reporting to sick call, being placed on limited duty, and undergoing physical therapy.”
(2) the lay person is reporting a contemporaneous medical diagnosis, or
(3) lay testimony describing symptoms at the time supports a later diagnosis by a medical professional. See Jandreau v. Nicholson, 492 F.3d 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2007)
Here’s what this means for you.
When you are filing a disability claim, its important to research the condition your currently have, first. Then, find the appropriate regulation that the VA follows in assigning disability. Lastly, go through your medical records to see what you were diagnosed with when in-service. Once you get all this information gathered, craft your letter.
Remember, in order to get a service-connection the condition must be a current problem. Generally, it must also have occurred or been aggravated while on active-duty.
It is important to use the right key words and to weave the story together using them. This will help the VA evaluator understand the “continuity of symptomology.”