A lay statement is the most powerful piece of evidence a Veteran can submit in their own claim, but it’s only as good as the content it contains.
What should it contain and why? Read on…
In order to have any weight (i.e. useful) it must be considered “credible.” Credible is a legal term that means the trier of fact can rely on the person writing the statement to be telling the truth in a reliable manner.
Therefore, it’s important that your statement be well-written, contain no spelling or grammatical errors, and be in a professional tone.
Additionally, it must only contain facts, and those facts must be applicable to your contentions. Three legal terms are extremely important when discussing fact evidence: material, probative, and relevant.
These terms confuse lawyers. Don’t let them overwhelm you.
Material means: about the contention you are claiming.
Probative means: it answers the questions a trier of fact has.
Relevant means: about your instance of your contention, not someone else’s.
If you are writing a statement in support of a back injury, it would mean you tell them about the conditions you saw in service that likely caused the injury or degeneration. Including pictures can be quite useful in telling a story that goes to a fact pattern, such as how large or heavy something is, or the way a vehicle rides poorly and beats a body up.
A few don’ts:
- Don’t talk about your buddy who has the same condition, with the presumption “therefore you must have it.”
- Don’t provide opinions
- Don’t use supposition (what you think vs. what you know to be a fact)
- Don’t be aggressive
- Don’t include other unrelated contentions
A few do’s:
- Be succinct
- Write in a credible manner
- Only include relevant facts
- Answer questions a rater might have
- Provide pictures that illustrate a point
- Talk about one contention, and related contentions, per statement
Lastly, attest to your statement. It doesn’t need to be notarized, but to be accepted does need to have an attestation.