Helping by Writing a Letter in Support of a Veteran Seeking VA Compensation

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Whether you’re a spouse, friend, relative, military buddy, co-worker, supervisor, teacher, coach, or spiritual leader, you’re likely to have an idea of how the Veteran’s life has been affected by military service.

Traumatic experiences in the military can bring about profound changes. It’s not unusual for a man or woman to enter the service as one person and emerge as someone markedly different. PTSD can turn a friendly, outgoing person into a withdrawn loner. It can turn a calm, easygoing person into a powder keg. It can turn an active person into someone who’s afraid to leave the house. It can turn a productive worker into a problem employee. It can turn a devoted husband or wife into a spouse who’s moody and distant, or even abusive. It can turn a devoted parent into an absent father or mother.

Buddy Letters from Military Co-Workers

Buddy Letters from Military Co-Workers should ideally be written by people who were with you when a key event happened.  It helps if it's someone from your squad or platoon... someone who was with you during most of your deployment.  For example, if you have PTSD and were part of a lengthy fire fight in which you or others in your unit were wounded or killed, you'd want to get a letter from someone who was also in the firefight.  The letter should include any details the person can remembers about the incident as well as how it affected you (Did you start having nightmares afterwards? Did your rage level obviously get worse? Did you talk to them about the incident afterwards?  If so, what did you say?).

If your time in combat included a lot of bad situations (which is pretty common), then the letter can kind of be an overview that talks about several events with details about the worst.

A great example is a letter written by a Platoon Sergeant that was well-organized and got the point across.  In the top section (about two-thirds of the letter), the Platoon Sergeant went over the soldier's time in theater, noting how many fire fights, IED's, RPG's, etc., he had been involved with and adding details about the most difficult incidents

(when a friend had been killed, cleaning up remains after an explosion, etc.).  Then, in the bottom section of the letter, he detailed the changes in the soldier.

"At the beginning of the deployment SPC John Doe was generally happy, well adjusted, etc.  Throughout our time in theater I noticed this soldier becoming increasingly angry and withdrawn.  By the end of the deployment SPC Doe was greatly changed and obviously struggling with what he had experienced in theater."

Buddy Letters from Family and Friends

If you’ve known the Veteran before and after military service, you’re in a position to describe the changes you’ve seen. Even if you’ve only known the Veteran since his or her military service ended, you can still help. A letter describing what you’ve observed can go a long way toward educating the VA about the severity of the Veteran’s PTSD symptoms.

If possible, describe the Veteran’s symptoms in detail, giving specific examples. Does the Veteran panic when a helicopter flies overhead or a firecracker goes off? Is the Veteran constantly on guard, checking to make certain that all the doors and windows in the family home are locked? At a restaurant, does the Veteran insist on taking a seat facing the exit, to make sure there’s an escape route? Does the Veteran often wake up from nightmares, shaking and crying out in terror?

Let the facts speak for themselves. Write down what you’ve seen and heard, as completely and accurately as you can. There’s no need to exaggerate, and no need to worry about telling the whole truth. Without the Veteran’s specific written permission, only the VA, the Veteran, and the Veteran’s representative or attorney will be able to read what you write. 

If you are uncomfortable with the idea of writing the letter and being totally, brutally honest if the Veteran was going to read it… make a deal with your Veteran. The deal is that you will write everything you see and what is in your heart and you will send the only copy in with the claim…basically, that he or she wouldn't read what you wrote.  If you are the Veteran you may have to do something similar in order to make it "okay" for your loved ones to really give the people at the VA the "nitty gritty". You can deliver the sealed copy to the Veteran, their family or to their Service Officer.

If possible, type your letter on a computer; otherwise, please make certain your handwriting is legible. It is a good idea to keep Buddy Letters to one page (one side).  The person processing the claim has a lot of information to get through.  You want to give them the details without making them read a book.

Buddy Letters should always include contact information for the person writing it (address and phone number), the full name of the Veteran it's being written for, the printed name and signature of the person writing it, and the date the letter was written. State how long you’ve known the Veteran, and how often you see him or her. (The more often you’ve seen the Veteran, the more weight your opinion is likely to carry. Of course, it can also be significant if you’re now seeing the Veteran less often than you did before his or her service, particularly if PTSD is the reason.)

This statement does not have to be on any specific form but if you choose to you can use VBA Form 21-4138 here. It is not necessary to have the statement notarized. 

End your letter with this declaration:
“I CERTIFY THAT the statements on this document are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.”

Sign and date the letter, and include your full name and address.

You’ve eye-witnessed the harm that PTSD has caused. You now have an opportunity to help the Veteran return to a stable and productive life. We hope you’ll take advantage of it. Writing a letter can make a difference in the life of someone you care about.

July 14, 2019 - 9:27pm