This is an article that continues to expand the topic of written testimony. This particular article is going to go through several appeals court cases that set precedent on the topic. This article is heavy in “law,” but contains a lot of very important information related to the value of written lay testimony if the substance of the testimony meets the legal burdens.
Several cases have come out of the Circuit of Appeals for Veteran’s Claims (CAVC) Court which are precedent-setting.
Layno v. Brown (1994) holding that a lay witness is competent to testify to that which he has actually observed and is within the realm of his personal knowledge.
Buchanan v. Nicholson (2006) established that the statutes and regulations “clearly provided that competent lay evidence can be sufficient in and of itself to establish a service-connection award without any contemporaneous medical evidence.”
Barr v. Nicholson (2007) lay evidence describing symptoms at the time can be competent and sufficient to establish a diagnosis of a condition if it supports a later diagnosis by a medical professional.
Jandreau v. Nicholson (2007) the Federal Circuit held that lay evidence can be competent and sufficient to establish a diagnosis of condition when (1) a lay person is competent to identify the medical condition, (2) the layperson is reporting a contemporaneous medical diagnosis, or (3) lay testimony describing symptoms at the time supports a later diagnosis by a medical professional.
Davidson v. Shinseki (2009) The Federal Circuit held that the Veterans Court ignored its precedent in Jandreau v. Nicholson, 492 F.3d 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2007) and Buchanan v.Nicholson, 451 F.3d 1331 (Fed. Cir. 2006) and incorrectly interpreted 38 U.S.C. § 1154(a) to require a medical opinion to prove nexus between a veteran’s death and an in-service disease.