Most Veterans who apply for disability benefits do not submit a VA lay statement supporting their claim when they file for disability. Many people may not even know what a lay statement is. Lay statements are probably the most underrated and undervalued pieces of evidence by Veterans seeking disability benefits. This article is an overview of the power of lay statements and why they are a key component in successful disability claims.
The first thing to understand is the distinction between subjective and objective evidence. Many Veterans are focused on objective evidence, but it is a combination of both that can get results.
Many people emphasize the importance of getting a Nexus connection. This is obviously a huge factor in successful claims because proving service-connection is needed to receive a disability rating from the VA. Private, objective medical opinions can help establish service-connection by medically supporting a disability claim.
You are not a number
Two Veterans suffering from the same condition may have completely different experiences. Bear in mind that your rating is determined by your symptoms and diagnosis, which are subjective. You are the only one who understands the severity of this disability, what it looks like on a day-to-day basis, and how it affects your functionality and your quality of life. A well-written lay statement should be considered with the initiation of a claim.
If you develop symptoms of chronic illness while in service, and you continue to have those symptoms until you’re eventually diagnosed, a lay statement provides a timeline, thus helping you support service-connection for that condition.
If you receive a denial letter that says, “We see that you had symptoms of this condition in service; however, the evidence does not show that it was a chronic condition that led to your current condition,” you can appeal that decision using a subjective lay statement.
At VA Claim Pros, we know the value of lay statements because we see how they strongly support VA disability claims. We’ve seen many times that if a Veteran is service-connected for a condition, their rating usually depends on the symptoms documented on a lay statement. That is why it is important to understand the power of a lay statement and understand the limitations of it. By documenting your symptoms and diagnosis properly, a lay statement can be very powerful supporting evidence.
What to keep in mind regarding lay statements
You don’t need to be a doctor to talk about your symptoms and how they negatively affect your life.
- Don’t diagnose yourself – Diagnoses are objective–they are to be determined by a physician.
- Keep a log – Logs are crucial because they document the symptom, the severity, the daily experience, and the chronology of your symptoms.
An example of lay evidence
Let’s say a Veteran is filing a sleep apnea disability and is married. His spouse is now a qualified person to write a lay statement because she is in the room and knows what it’s like to live with someone with sleep apnea.
According to the Mayo Clinic, primary symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Loud snoring
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty paying attention while awake
- Episodes where you do not breathe when you are asleep
- Gasping for air during sleep
- Morning headaches
- Difficulty staying asleep
The VA rates sleep apnea from 0%, 30% 50%, and 100% after a medical diagnosis and service connection. The proper way for a spouse to attest to your symptoms is to have her clearly describe how she knows you, for how long, and when she noticed a change in you. These changes should include symptoms of sleep apnea.
If the Veteran suffered a traumatic event while in service and then developed symptoms of sleep apnea, the Veteran’s spouse should detail this in a spousal statement. The letter must be dated and signed by the spouse writing it.
We at VA Claim Pros would like you to know the power of a lay statement so you can give yourself the best chance of winning the VA benefits that you are medically and ethically qulaified for. Call us today to find out how we can use our expertise to help you compile the proper evidence to file and win your original claims and appeal claims today.