VA Form 21-4138 Increase VA Claims: 6 Must-Know Points
When you have information that would be helpful to the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) for increase claims you need to include that information in a “statement” or “Statement in Support of Claim.” The VA Form 21-4138 statement in support of claim is helpful in clarifying points that are not obvious from looking only at the facts in your claim package. It also allows you to write your statement in support of claim to encompass symptoms that should be recognized in order to rate you properly. To assist claimants, this article provides an overview of the use of a lay statement in establishing service-connected disability claims and explains what is required when using a lay statement.
This article is about increase requests on something you are already service-connected with. To understand the 21-4138 VA form for new claims, click here.
What should I Do Prior To Writing My Lay Statement for An Increase Claim?
If you’re a veteran seeking benefits, understanding the VA claims process can greatly improve your chances of receiving the benefits you deserve BEFORE writing your VA Form 21 4138. The first step is to gather all relevant medical and service records to support your claim.
It’s also important to provide a detailed account of your symptoms and how they impact your daily life.
Finally, be prepared to appeal any initial denials, as the appeals process can sometimes result in a favorable outcome. By taking these steps, you can increase your chances of receiving the increase in benefits you’ve earned.
What is a Lay Statement and Why Should I Use A Statement for An Increase Claim?
A lay statement is a written document explaining why you believe you are entitled to VA benefits. It may take the form of a word document, a VA Form 21-4138, or any other letter as written by the veteran. A lay statement is designed to be an unsworn statement. A lay statement can be very helpful in clarifying points that are not obvious from looking only at the facts in your claim package. A lay statement can cover several areas of your claim.
For example, you can use it to explain:
- The severity of your symptoms.
- How your disability affects you occupationally and socially.
- What you (or others) do to take care of your condition.
- Your daily activities and limitations.
- Information about your education, work history, and skill problems.
- What medical evidence may be missing from your file if there are records you can not find from a previous doctor visit.
You should understand how each condition rates which is covered in Title 38 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 4, Schedule for Ratings. Also, using a Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ) to guide you can help you understand the symptoms as well.
Who Can Use a Lay Statement For My Increase Claim?
Anyone can use a lay statement to explain relevant facts about their claim. Anyone can write a lay statement and sign it, whether or not he or she is represented by a legal advocate or attorney. However, if you are represented by an attorney, he or she may have specific instructions on what to include in your lay statement.Generally, if you have information that would be helpful to the VBA in making a decision, but is not directly related to your claim for benefits, you may want to include that information in a “statement” or “explanatory statement”. A “lay statement” can be very helpful in clarifying points that are not obvious from looking only at the facts in your claim package.
If you have been denied an increase claim, and you initially did not put in your claim with a VA Form 21 4138 Statement in Support of Claim, you can submit this as additional evidence.
When Would You Use a Lay Statement for an Increase Claim?
You might use a lay statement any time it is appropriate to provide additional information about your claim.
For example, you may want to use a lay statement when:
- There is a lack of or ambiguity about medical evidence in your claim or medical record.
- You feel there is a misunderstanding about your medical condition, symptoms, or limitations.
- You have additional evidence, work history, or legal history that could support your claim.
- You have information that would introduce new facts that could change the outcome of your claim.
As you can see, a lay statement can offer any information that would benefit the VBA in making a decision on your claim. However, it is essential that your lay statement be as complete and clear as possible.
What Should Be Included in Your Lay Statement for an Increase Claim?
The following section provides a guide to writing a good lay statement. . This type of lay statement is used to describe three things:
- What are you filing for?
- How have your symptoms gotten worse?
- How does the worsening of these symptoms affect you socially and occupationally?
Keep in mind that the VBA may not read your entire statement, so your objective is to make the key points outlined above. The first thing you need to do is determine what exactly you want to communicate to the VBA. Additionally, under #2 as stated above, you should read the rating criteria and write to the appropriate rating for which you qualify. A good lay statement will:
- State what you are filing the increase for, such as: “Increase for PTSD“.
- Provide a clear explanation of the facts of your claim, including the symptoms of your disability or disease and the daily activities that are limited by those conditions
- Include relevant medical facts, such as the name of your condition, the treatment you are receiving, and the prognosis. Additionally, you may want to point out pages of your medical evidence that corroborate your claim for increase.
- Provide any education, work history, or skill information that would help the VBA understand your work capacity or show that you are unable to work
- State your daily activities, including any responsibilities that your spouse or caregiver must provide with your care
Add any other relevant facts you may have overlooked in your claim
- State your willingness to take a VA examination and undergo a medical re-examination if necessary.
The 4 Elements of a Good Statement In Support of Claim
A good lay statement starts with an introduction. It clearly lays out what you want to accomplish with your statement – for example, “This statement provides support for my PTSD increase”. While the VBA will read your entire statement, it is unnecessary and unhelpful to put everything you have to say in your lay statement. Instead, include only the most relevant points. To do this, use the following seven elements.
Check out our VA 21-4138 lay statement example for sleep apnea. You will also want to understand the rating criteria for sleep apnea.
1. Identify what you are claiming in the lay statement
- Begin your statement with a clear introduction that identifies the what you are claiming, such as “I am filing an increase for my sciatic nerve“. Or, “I am filing for direct service connection for Tinnitus“. Try to keep this exactly the same as your existing disability as the VA has it listed. In other words, on va.gov if you go to your existing disabilities, you will find your current disabilities, such as what is depicted in the photo:
- In this case, you would want to file for an “increase for left upper extremity radiculopathy”.
2. Explain the medical evidence in your VA Form 21-4138 and reasoning for your increase claim.
- Explain the medical evidence included in your file, which should show how your condition has worsened.
3. Explain in your lay statement on how the symptoms have gotten worse
- This can’t be emphasized enough: Write to the ratings schedule. For the example above (left upper extremity radiculopathy”, I would want to research the 38 CFR part 4 (specifically 38 CFR 4.124a) under nerve conditions, code 8513. Explain the symptoms that you experience, such as numbing or tingling, and make sure you speak to frequency and severity.
- In this particular case (nerves) we will have to look into the medical records to find the key words (mild, that are mentioned & ensure we have that outlined in the medical records.
- To properly go for this increase, I would want to find the words “moderate or severe” in my medical records to qualify for this increase.
4. Provide information about your daily activities – Explain the daily activities that are limited by your disability or diseases.
- State any issues you have with your occupation, such as inability to move boxes very far. How much does this limit your ability to work?
- State issues you have with social impairment. Do you have to use a cane, and it creates a problem going up stairs. Therefore, you can’t attend your favorite restaurant, as it is on a second floor of a building.
- If you have any other information that would help the VBA understand your work capacity or show that you are unable-to-work, this is the place to include it. This may include any certifications, specialized skills, or work history relevant to your claim.
A good lay statement will help you clearly and effectively communicate the key points of your claim to the VBA. Make sure you include the seven elements listed above, and your statement will be a helpful tool in your claim.
To understand more about the best ways to craft your VA Form 21-4138, please sign up for a free strategy session with the Blue Cord Patriots.