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This page dedicated to helping Veterans and their loved ones learn more about writing a good buddy letter.
FamilyOfaVet - Real world info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat
FamilyOfaVet - Real World info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat.

What Makes a Good "Buddy Letter"



Buddy Letters (also known in the VA as a "Statement in Support of Claim") are one way to
help you build your Veterans Administration Disability Claim.  They're especially helpful
when you're filing a claim for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or TBI (Traumatic
Brain Injury).  Buddy Letters from military co-workers will be a little different from those
written by personal friends or family.  Both types, however, have their own strengths.

Basic Buddy Letter "Etiquette"

It is a good idea to keep Buddy Letters to one page (one side).  The person processing the
claim has
a lot of information to get through.  You want to give them the details without
making them read a book.

Buddy Letters should always include contact information for the person writing it (address
& phone number), the full name of the Veteran it's being written for, the printed name and
signature of the person writing it, and the date the letter was written.

It's also good (but not absolutely necessary) if the bottom of the letter ends with the and
belief."  This statement should appear right above the signature and printed name of the
letter writer.

Buddy Letters can also be written (by hand or typed) on a VA Form 21-4138 (
CLICK HERE
to download).  However, it's just fine to submit them on normal, letter-sized paper.  Just do
whatever is easiest!

Buddy Letters from Military Co-Workers

Buddy Letters from Military Co-Workers should ideally be written by people who were with
you when a key event happened.  It helps if it's someone from your squad or platoon...
someone who was with you during most of your deployment.  For example, if you have
PTSD and were part of a lengthy fire fight in which you or others in your unit were wounded
or killed, you'd want to get a letter from someone who was also in the firefight.  The letter
should include any details the person can remembers about the incident as well as how it
affected you (Did you start having nightmares afterwards? Did your rage level obviously
get worse? Did you talk to them about the incident afterwards?  If so, what did you say?),

If your time in combat included a lot of bad situations (which is pretty common), then the
letter can kind of be an overview that talks about several events with details about the
worst.

I read a Buddy Letter recently that was written for an Infantry soldier who has served in
Iraq.  The letter, written by his Platoon Sergeant, was (in my opinion) a really good Buddy
Letter example.  I won't include the text of the entire letter, but the format stood out!  It was
well-organized and got the point across.  In the top section (about two-thirds of the letter),
the PLT Sergeant went over the soldier's time in theater, noting how many fire fights, IED's,
RPG's, etc., he had been involved with and adding details about the most difficult incidents
(when a friend had been killed, cleaning up remains after an explosion, etc).  Then, in the
bottom section of the letter, he detailed the changes in the soldier (At the beginning of the
deployment SPC John Doe was generally happy, well adjusted, etc.  Throughout our time
in theater I noticed this soldier becoming increasingly angry and withdrawn.  By the end of
the deployment SPC Doe was greatly changed and obviously struggling with what he had
experienced in combat.)












Buddy Letters from Family and Friends

Buddy Letters from loved ones are different.  Most obviously this is because they weren't
with you during your deployment!  But, also because their letters shouldn't focus on what
caused your condition, but how it is affecting you and the people who love you.

Ideally, these letters should be heartfelt and tell about how you were before your
deployment(s) and how you are now.  Were you kind and patient before but are now
short-tempered and hostile? Have they seen you wake up often because of nightmares?
Do you avoid going to public places but used to love going anywhere new?  The letter
should also focus on how the changes affect your family members.  Does you spouse now
"tip toe" around you to avoid setting you off? Are your children afraid when you have
nightmares? Does your family have to go to events without you because you can't handle
the crowds?

These letters should give the person processing your claim an inside view of your daily life
and how PTSD, TBI, or other injuries are affecting you and your family.  This isn't the time
for them to "soften" how difficult things are.  A Buddy Letter from a loved one should reveal
the
true deal.

It's helpful if these letters come from people that either live with you (your wife, older
children, etc.) or have contact with you on a regular basis (your parents, co-workers,
friends, etc.).  

In our household, I wasn't comfortable with the idea of writing the letter and being totally,
brutally honest if my hubby was going to read it.  So, we made a deal that I would write
everything in my heart and we would send the only copy in with the claim (basically, that he
wouldn't read what I wrote).  You may have to do something similar in order to make it
"okay" for your loved ones to really give the people at the VA the "nitty gritty".

Also, we received (and followed) a recommendation from our Service Officer to have letters
from family notarized.  It's not necessary, but her experience had been that sometimes a
notarized letter carries more weight in the eyes of the person processing the claim.  This
may be something for you to consider also.

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