Many veterans need to rely on the VA to develop their cases. This can lead to a lack of evidence and delayed obtaining benefits. Building a strong VA claim involves having comprehensive medical evidence, demonstrating a link between the disability and service, and seeking expert assistance.
Document the Symptoms
When filing a VA disability claim, providing the rating team with as much evidence as possible is important. This includes medical records, treatment notes, and statements from a doctor showing that your condition has worsened or that you have developed new disabilities. In addition, it is helpful to document any changes in your daily activities that can be attributed to your disability. A statement from a friend or family member called a buddy letter, can also be useful in many cases. For example, if you seek compensation for tinnitus, a buddy letter can help support your claim by explaining your symptoms and how they affect your daily life. However, being honest in a buddy letter is important, as exaggerating your symptoms can do more harm than good and may damage your credibility. If unsure how to approach a buddy letter, you should consider working with a veteran’s attorney experienced in VA claims.
Get a Statement from Your Doctor
If a veteran has an effective attorney, they will know how to handle all of the details and evidence involved in a VA claim. They will also care about their client’s well-being and treat them compassionately. For any statement to be considered by VA, it must be deemed competent and credible. This means that anyone writing a buddy letter must have personal knowledge of the events being discussed and be able to provide reliable information.
For example, a veteran seeking benefits for tinnitus can submit a buddy letter from a friend or family member to describe the symptoms and their impact on everyday life. This can help establish a connection between the disability and an in-service event, such as exposure to loud noises. However, it is important that the person not overstate or downplay a veteran’s symptoms. Exaggerating symptoms can be detrimental to a disability rating. It may also call into question the credibility of the writer.
Talk to a VA Attorney
A VA attorney is a legal professional accrediting the VA to assist veterans and their families with claims at all process stages. Accredited representatives or VSOs are also trained and certified to work on veterans’ behalf.
If your claim is pending, you can find its status by calling the local VA regional office. You can also check it online in eBenefits. At the initial meeting with your VA representative, he or she will review your files and ensure you have all the necessary evidence to file a fully developed claim. That includes medical records from all sources, including private doctors. The VA will also request federal records such as military and Social Security Administration disability records. Having lay evidence, such as buddy letters, can help in many cases. For example, if you claim tinnitus, having other service members who can vouch that you were exposed to loud noises in the military can be helpful. By partnering with an experienced attorney, you can learn what’s necessary to have in a claim.
The VA claims process can be overwhelming. It is important to get help from an accredited attorney who knows what they are doing. There are also resources online that can help you navigate the process. Having someone who understands your symptoms and how they impact you can be extremely valuable to your claim. Many veterans have friends and family members who can provide statements to support their claims. This is especially true if the veteran has a debilitating injury or illness like PTSD, TBI, or ALS. Another great way to strengthen a disability claim is to obtain a medical nexus letter. This statement from a private healthcare provider helps connect your current diagnosis to an in-service event. This can be a powerful tool in your claim and a great alternative to relying solely on the C&P examiner’s opinion. A good disability attorney can also assist in securing a medical nexus letter.