Nexus is the element of VA service connected compensation linking the incident in service to the current disability. I see nexus as a bridge between what happened in service to the current condition the veteran has. Typically, nexus comes in the form of a medical opinion.
I consider nexus to be a bridge because it helps illustrate the problems that veterans run into when applying for compensation. If a veteran applies for service connected compensation three months after discharge from the service then the bridge is relatively short. But when the veteran applies for service connected compensation three decades after discharge it is a different story. When a veteran’s claim comes years after discharge the VA is going to probe for intercurrent reasons for the disability. For example, if the veteran files for VA service connected compensation for a back claim the VA is going to see what the veteran was doing between service and the current claim. Did the veteran have any serious accidents that could have caused the current disability or was the veteran working in a job, like construction, that could have caused the veteran’s current disability. I’m not saying that a veteran cannot win a service connected compensation claim when he files it years or decades after discharge. In fact, the majority of the claims that I handle involve veterans who have been trying to get service connected benefits since the 1960s and 1970s. But you need to be aware of the problems that you will run into with the VA in claims like filed years after discharge.
As I stated, a nexus is usually a medical opinion. The VA has a duty to assist the veteran develop his claim. If you have a documented in service incident and a current disability the VA will usually send you to a C&P exam for one of their doctors to determine if there is a nexus.
The standard of proof for any factual determination in a VA service connected compensation claim, including a nexus, is ‘as likely as not.’ So if the evidence is fifty percent against the veteran and fifty percent for the veteran—the evidence is in equipoise—then the veteran wins. In terms of a nexus, that means if the doctor finds that it is ‘as likely as not’ that the veteran’s disability is related to the event in service then the veteran wins.
If the VA C&P exam finds that there is no nexus between the veteran’s current disability and his in-service incident, i.e. the doctor says it is ‘less likely than not’ that the current disability is related to what happened in service then the veteran is going to have to produce his own medical evidence either from a treating doctor or from an outside doctor who provides independent medical exams. In the majority of my cases, we have to seek outside opinions because the VA opinion is either inaccurate or does not consider all the factors of the veteran’s claim.
Once you have established an service incident has as likely as not caused or aggravated a current disability you have laid out the foundation for service connected compensation. If the VA concedes these three elements in your case then you are entitled to service connected compensation from the VA.
Unfortunately, as I’ve discussed here, just winning this battle is not the end of your war with the VA. You must now fight to make sure that the VA gives you the proper rating and effective date. Put simply, winning service connection gives you nothing more than the VA’s acknowledgement that your disability is related to service. After years of fighting the VA this concession can be a great relief. But you didn’t start this fight for recognition; you started it to receive compensation, service connected compensation.