It is important that your claim is prepared as well as possible. If improperly prepared or documented, your claim is likely to fail. Depending on why it failed, your claim may damage your ability to successfully appeal a bad decision or to win approval in a subsequent claim. A claim that has been filed incorrectly is as useless to you and your family as a claim that was never filed. Writing a Stressor Statement: Use Form 21-4138
1. Writing a stressor statement can itself be stressful. In many cases, You’re being asked to recall and record events that you’d rather forget. This is true not only for veterans who served in a combat zone but also for veterans who suffered Military Sexual Trauma.
2. Once you’ve described the stressful events, You’ll need to describe how they have affected you. Begin with a brief summary of your life before you entered the military. How well did you get along with members of your family? Did you have friends? A girlfriend or boyfriend? Did you go to school? Take part in school activities? Did you have a job? How well did you do it? Was religion important to you? If so, how? Did you play sports? Enjoy hobbies?
3. Next, Describe the stressful events in chronological order. For each event, give the date and place it occurred, and the name of the unit you were attached to. Tell what happened in as much detail as possible, and tell how you felt about what happened. Were you angry? Fearful? Sad? Numb?
4. Describe How You Have Changed - describe what your life was like before you began military service, what your relationship with friends and families was like, how you did in school, whether you played sports or had a job. Then describe what happened after you returned home from the service. Give examples of problems you had with work, school, or relationships. Describe your difficulty adjusting to civilian life. If you were no longer interested in activities, you once enjoyed, talk about that. Give specific examples of your PTSD symptoms. For example “I had a panic attack when I heard a car backfire, I thought it was gunfire” or “I heard someone scream on TV and I ran for cover.” This will be much more effective than providing clinical descriptions of symptoms that you may have learned while undergoing mental health treatment.
5. You’re not expected to have a perfect memory. If you can’t recall something, don’t hesitate to say so. But do include as much detail as you can. Are there specific sights and sounds you can’t forget? If so, write about them. * NOTE: If you don’t remember precisely when something happened, do your best to give the VA an approximate time frame. They’ll need it if it becomes necessary to verify your story by researching military records. You may be able to peg the event to another occurrence in your life. Did it happen close in time to a birthday? An anniversary? A holiday? A death?
6. Tell the truth, there’s no need to exaggerate or embellish, the facts are powerful enough; let them speak for themselves.