What is Lay Evidence?
Lay evidence is any evidence written from a non-expert or non-medical professional that offers observational or a layperson’s perspective on any necessary fact that can substantiate a claim for VA compensation. More simply stated, any written or oral statement that describes one’s symptoms or what a veteran experienced during service that may have caused a disability to be service connected.
Why do I need lay evidence to support my case?
Lay evidence is extremely powerful evidence because the VA is prohibited from disregarding it. So long as the evidence relates to factual issues that can be observed either by a third party or the veteran themselves–the evidence must be considered and factored into the ultimate decision. The only problems veterans sometimes have is that they use this opportunity to try to give an opinion on whether a condition is service connected by giving an opinion that only a medical or some other kind of expert can give. An example of this type of opinion would be that if the veteran said, “I believe that my service connected shoulder problem caused the problem in my wrist.”. This would be dismissed by the VA since it gives an opinion that only a professional medical expert could give, and not a layperson. However, if the veteran’s letter or affidavit indicates for example: “Since my service in the military I have experienced a sharp pain from my wrist to my shoulder approximately once every three days. The pain is of the shooting variety that flares up to occasionally severe pain. When I have it I can barely use my arm, but it depends on the day”. The more detail that is given the better.
The example above is extremely useful because it doesn’t give any particular opinion, but only gives the VA an idea as to the facts of a particular condition. Its also credible and believable since it does not tend to exaggerate or embellish the problem. The facts give an idea that the problem is not an every day problem, but is occasionally severe depending on the day.
In what format should my lay statement be in?
There is an official VA form to provide such a statement. If you are so inclined you can use the VA form. However, writing your letter on a separate piece of paper is just as effective. The important thing is the content should be factual and not opinion oriented as described above. It should also be dated, include your name or the Veteran’s name and C file number, and be signed by the person making the statement. Some people put the statements in a more formal affidavit format that could could be subscribed and signed by an official notary with indication that the statement is given “under the penalty of perjury”. This is certainly not required, but could enhance the validity of the statement.
Who should write a lay statement?
The veteran and any other person who was able to observe the veteran’s condition. This could be a buddy from the military who observed the veteran’s disability or a family member. Any person that can provide a factual basis as to when a disability stated or how severe a disability is.