Veterans Disability Info Blog

Buddy Letters and Buddy Statements from Your Wife: What Are They?

“Buddy letters” are lay statements provided in support of a veteran’s claim for VA disability benefits. These letters can describe the nature of a veteran’s observable symptoms—including their onset, frequency, duration, and the extent to which they affect or interfere with the veteran’s life—as well as the events that may have precipitated the disability at issue.

The utility of buddy letters is a unique component of VA’s appeals process. Unlike most areas of legal practice governed by strict rules concerning the elicitation and submission of witness testimony, VA’s pro-claimant system requires it to consider relevant lay evidence provided by veterans and their acquaintances in much the same manner as it does medical evidence. This is not to say that VA regards buddy letters and buddy statements from a wife and medical evidence equally, but the information provided in a buddy letter can shape the medical evidence used to decide the claim, including providing the foundation upon which a medical opinion is based. Buddy letters can therefore play an extremely valuable role in winning VA disability cases.

When Are Buddy Letters Useful and What Should They Include?

Buddy letters can bridge gaps in a veteran’s service records, corroborate events, injuries, illnesses, and stressors, or illustrate the extent to which the veteran’s disabilities interfere with his life and work. When determining whether to obtain a buddy letter, consider the specifics of your case and the information needed to substantiate it. For example, buddy letters describing an in-service injury will be of little use in a claim for an increased rating or entitlement to TDIU.

On the other hand, buddy letters corroborating the severity of your disability will not demonstrate a nexus between your present disability and your military service in a claim for service connection. Before asking a buddy to write on your behalf, be sure to think through the information you need them to provide to maximize the accuracy and effectiveness of their response.

As a formality, buddy letters should always include the author’s identifying information and his or her relationship to the veteran. This section should include as much information as possible to readily highlight for VA the letter’s credibility, competency, and relevancy.

In addition, all lay statements must be signed and dated to be considered by VA. The signature serves as a certification that the information has been provided to the best of the person’s knowledge and belief.

Who Can Write Buddy Letters?

Anyone 18 and older with personal knowledge of the objective facts relevant to a claim is competent to write a buddy letter. For lay persons, personal knowledge denotes facts and information the author came to know through the use of the senses—that which is seen, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted. On the other hand, knowledge acquired through specialized training, education, or expertise—such as the knowledge required to render a medical diagnosis or attribute symptoms to a particular diagnosis or event—is not personally observable and is therefore outside the realm of competent lay testimony.

The threshold consideration is competence: the author of a buddy letter must be competent to discuss the subject matter discussed in the letter. This could be a coworker who saw how the veteran’s disability affected his job performance; a family member who noticed behavioral differences in the veteran after he returned from service; or a fellow servicemember who witnessed, heard, or smelled a specific incident that the veteran experienced while on active duty.

Consider the following:

  1. A fellow servicemember competently testifies to hearing the veteran snore and choke in his sleep during service, but he cannot state that the Veteran has sleep apnea.
  2. A wife competently describes the onset of noticeable changes in her husband’s behavior when he returns from a combat zone, but she cannot attribute those behavioral differences to combat or state he has PTSD unless she is medically qualified to do so or was present when the diagnosis was given.

Generally speaking, buddy letters should discuss the objective events and symptoms as they were observed by the author rather than speculation about diagnoses and their respective causes.

Buddy Statements for PTSD

Service connection for PTSD requires credible evidence of an in-service stressor, so a buddy letter used to corroborate that stressor should discuss when and where it occurred, unit and location assigned, and the nature and onset of any observable symptoms the veteran developed in its aftermath.

Since PTSD often manifests many years after a traumatic event, spouses may be a more reliable lay witness than former servicemembers in situations where VA has already conceded the in-service stressor, as the spouse can more accurately testify about the veteran’s symptoms over time and their impact on his daily life. For reference, see the example buddy statements for PTSD for reference about how to structure buddy letters about PTSD and what to include.

Example Buddy Statement for PTSD from Wife

I, Jane Doe, hereby declare under penalty of perjury that the following is true and correct to the best of my knowledge:

I married my husband, John Doe, on June 17, 2001. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps a year after our wedding and served honorably as a combat engineer from July 2002 to July 2006. Before enlisting, he was a happy person who enjoyed spending time with family and friends. He adored his niece and loved taking her fishing. As a couple, we often took our dogs hiking on the weekends and spent our weeknights watching stand-up comedy after work or cooking dinner together. He never drank much, but he loved to eat. He worked as a chef in a local restaurant, and cooking big meals was one of our favorite things to do together. He had the biggest, warmest heart and lived for his family.

Before John deployed, he was stationed at Camp Lejune and wrote me at least once a week. His letters were lengthy, lighthearted, and reflective of the man I’d always known. However, I hardly heard from him once he deployed to Iraq in August 2003. In his six months overseas, I received about three letters that together totaled less than a page. His tone was very matter of fact. I tried not to worry and hoped things would return to normal once he returned home, but they only got worse.

When John returned, he moved all his things out of our bedroom and into the basement. He isolated himself from everyone: me, his niece, his friends, and his siblings. He lived in the basement with the shades drawn day in and day out; I had to continue working to pay bills because John would not.

When I tried to question him, he became angry and yelled louder than I’d ever heard him before. He began drinking heavily—7 or 8 beers a night before he turned to liquor. He stopped eating and the clothes that used to fit him hung loosely off his emaciated frame. He was also paranoid and reactive. He punched a man at the grocery store he accused of stalking him and had to spend the night in jail. After that, I packed a bag and moved into my parents’ house until John agreed to get help.

A year or so later, John received a DUI and was forced to attend substance abuse meetings. Since cutting back on his drinking, John slowly began to open up to me about what happened while he was deployed. He spoke of the bodies and carnage he saw, and the smell of burning oil. He refused to see a psychologist because he insisted he could care for himself and went back to work as a chef. He threw himself back into what he loved and seemed to improve.

As a result, I agreed to move back home. However, a year later, we attended a neighborhood party on the 4th of July. I was so excited John was feeling social again, and that he seemed to be returning to the man I’d married. Things were going great until some fireworks went off unexpectedly, which sent John into a frenzied rage. He began throwing things and hiding under tables. It took three of his old high school friends to retrain him and help carry him home.

Since that night, John’s mood is unpredictable. He has weeks or so where he seems like his old self before randomly turning into someone I don’t recognize. He recently agreed to attend group therapy sessions at our local VA, and it seems to help him recognize that he needs help. Things are still not the same between us, but I hope treatment will help him find the peace he needs to heal.

I hereby certify that the information I have given is true to the best of my knowledge and belief.



Jane Doe


Example Buddy Statement for PTSD

I, Joe Smith, hereby declare under penalty of perjury that the following is true and correct to the best of my knowledge:

John Doe and I served together as combat engineers in the U.S. Marine Corps from August 1984 to August 1992. We met during basic training and forged a strong friendship. Before we deployed, John was always cracking jokes and writing his wife. He was a happy guy, and I was glad to deploy with him.

We spent six months in Ira, surrounded by constant chaos. Dead bodies were everywhere, and everything smelt like it was on fire. On September 3, 2003, John and I were with XYZ unit monitoring a checkpoint in Anbar Province when a man and his 14-year-old daughter rapidly approached us. We quickly ordered them to stop, but they didn’t listen. They continued walking toward us until the man reached abruptly into his pocket. He pulled out a gun, and John shot him dead on the spot. The young girl then picked up her father’s weapon and aimed shot it in my direction, forcing John to shoot her too.

We attempted to resuscitate her but were unsuccessful. It was a terrible, tragic incident, and John was never the same afterwards. He didn’t speak to anyone, he showed up late to assigned duty locations, and he got into a few fist fights with other soldiers. When we returned home, John hardly kept in touch. I tried reaching out to him a few times, but my calls all went unanswered.

I recently ran into him at the VA and we caught up briefly. He told me he is in therapy and working through the events that happened in Iraq. It was good to see him, and I hope that, in time, we can restore our friendship to the way it was before we deployed.

I hereby certify that the information I have given is true to the best of my knowledge and belief.



Joe Smith


Help Obtaining Evidence and Buddy Statements

If you are having trouble obtaining service connection for PTSD or other conditions and you think a buddy statement from your wife or other friend or family member would help, you are welcome to contact us online or at 888.878.9350 to discuss your case.