The Value of a Personal Statement
As a rater for the VA I have noticed some mistakes that vets make and listened to many talk about how they forgot to tell the C&P doctor something about their conditions. I have also talked to so many veterans who don’t seem to remember aspects of their conditions unless I ask specific questions, and you can’t guarantee the C&P doctor will probe as deeply to bring out what needs to be said. So I am recommending veterans complete a personal statement for each and every condition. So if you are filing for 13 conditions you will have a statement for each condition. I am sure some will worry this will be a lot of paper and bog things down. As a rater I appreciate organization and having a concise statement for each condition. It makes it easier to understand the whole picture and if you are on the borderline of say a 30 and a 50 percent the statement gives me evidence to support going higher instead of lower.
So here is what you should have in your statement. First of all list how you obtained the condition, so for example in May 1980 while in the field I was jumping out of a deuce and half and when I landed my ankle rolled to the side and I felt a sharp pop and sharper pain. Well I rubbed some dirt on it and went back to work. Three days later my ankle gave out while walking up steps. In 1984, I was playing basketball and when I came down from a dunk my ankle hurt like crazy. When I went to the ER they diagnosed me with severe ankle sprain with tendonitis. That gives a clearer view than saying I hurt my ankle.
Next you want to explain that you have had issues with your ankle ever since you got out. List the day and month of other times you have hurt or gone to see a doctor due to the pain. Then you will want to have a recent visit and diagnosis within about 6 months of your filing the claim. You will want notes or letters from current doctor in order to document what you statement says. And you will want a current diagnosis, such as Severe Ankle Strain with Tendonitis and Degenerative Joint Disease.
Thirdly you want to write about how this affects you. So you want to tell them you can’t wear heals anymore, can’t jump for basketball, running is out and let the doctor and the rater know just how this condition changes your lifestyle. Things like I used to ride motocross and now I can’t stand on the pegs and if I try I end up wrecking. I have trouble walking my dog for anything over a short distance. I have to wear a brace most of the time or else my ankle rolls, I have to soak my ankle daily and take pills to ease the pain, and at times the pain in my ankle disturbs my sleep.
This will help all understand just how your condition is and the impact on your life. This is the same if it is for a sprained ankle, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, hearing loss, shoulder impingement, or how the scars on your face affect your view of yourself.
It is imperative you have a statement for the conditions with gray areas such as the mental conditions like Anxiety, PTSD and so one. For these pretend you lose your voice and this statement has to speak for you to the C&P doc and the rater. You write this statement and have a copy for you that you take to the C&P exam, a copy for the C&P doctor and one for the VA. Start with listing your stressor and as much info you can provide, such as who saw the incident, what any of the buddy statement writers say about your symptoms and what symptoms you have. For example, “I usually have three to four panic attacks a week. During these panic attacks my heart races, I am sweating with a fan blowing on me, my chest is tight and hurts, my head aches, my vision gets blurry and I feel like running away.” And you can also cover how it impacts you such as lack of friendship, not being able to make meaningful relationships, being a loner at work, have bouts of anger and irritability for unexplainable reasons.
If you think about some of the symptoms, people under great stress have memory and cognitive issues because the stress changes the chemical make up in your brain. Having the personal statement will allow you to remember and cover ALL symptoms in the C&P exam. Also with having handed him a copy there is no reason why he/she shouldn’t put it in the exam report. Plus having given it to the doc you can then go get a copy of the C&P exam and if it is not there file a complaint with the patient advocate. Remember it is a tool to help you so you need to create a strong accurate one..
Much as I would like to take credit for coming up with this I have to give credit to a vet who sent me his claim and had statements for each of his 43 conditions he was claiming. With his statements I could scan and find the important parts I need to make a decision. I could also cut and paste the symptoms into my rating narrative and justification for higher disability ratings. Since it was very organized and thorough I was able to complete my rating in about half the time, and yet had strong support for giving him a higher rating for his PTSD. His statement was also instrumental in the doctors being able to separate his PTSD from his TBI symptoms.
Bottom line is the more work you do up front the better your chances in getting what you have earned.
Also see this 'Personal Statement Format'
Christopher T Edwards