You courageously served your country and completed your military service, but you were left with an injury or illness that is limiting your ability to live life to the fullest. If you are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces and have a current injury or condition that is connected to that service, you may be eligible for disability compensation.
If your service or medical records are incomplete or do not demonstrate the connection between your impairment and your service, you can choose to submit additional materials to support your veterans disability claim. While your Veterans Service Officer (VSO) can help you determine what information you should submit, one of the most common supporting materials is a “nexus” letter.
What Is a “Nexus” Letter?
In order to qualify for veterans’ disability benefits, you must be able to show that your current condition or injury began during your military service or was aggravated by what you experienced during that service. In other words, you need to show that there is a “nexus” or connection between what happened in the military and your current medical condition. A nexus letter is written by a doctor, specialist, or expert and provides insight into your injury to confirm its connection to an event or injury that occurred during your military service.
Why Do I Need a Nexus Letter?
Many injuries or conditions are difficult to connect directly to your military service. Common examples include back and knee injuries, cancer, mental impairments, etc. Since service members are often reluctant to get something treated while they are in the service, or they simply underestimate the severity of an injury when it first occurs, this can pose a challenge for proving a connection at a later date.
Perhaps you hurt your knee performing work during your service and instead of seeking treatment, you bought a knee wrap from the grocery store and took some aspirin. Now your knee is in terrible shape and is limiting your ability to stand, walk, and sit. However, it is likely that the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) will not be able to verify the connection between your knee injury and the problems that you are experiencing now because you did not get treatment at the time of your injury. This is where a letter from your doctor, specialist, or psychologist or psychiatrist (depending on the nature of your impairment) can be especially helpful and supportive of your claim.
Another example involves exposure to Agent Orange. The VBA has recognized exposure to Agent Orange as a presumptive cause of several types of cancer and/or disease. While many veterans suffer from the effects of exposure to Agent Orange, they often have difficulty drawing the connection to their military service because their condition is not on the presumptive list of conditions. A nexus letter from an oncologist or other expert can provide additional support to the claim and may establish service connection, resulting in approval for disability benefits.
What Should a Nexus Letter Include?
As stated earlier, a nexus letter should be written by an expert. Most of the time, this will be your treating physician, a specialist (like an oncologist), or a psychologist or psychiatrist; someone who has expertise in your condition or type of injury.
The expert should review all of your related medical records, including service medical records, before drafting a nexus letter. The expert should indicate in the letter which records were reviewed so that the reader understands the history and depth of the expert’s observations and opinions. Additionally, it is always more persuasive if you have been examined recently by the expert that is drafting the letter.
The letter should be clear, concise, and should detail your injury or condition and how it relates to an injury or event that occurred during your military service. Fortunately, the expert does not need to state that he or she is 100% positive that the triggering accident or event caused your current injury or impairment. The expert only needs to express whether “it is more likely than not” that your illness or injury was incurred or aggravated during your active service.
Nexus letters can be a powerful resource and provide valuable support to your claim for disability benefits. It is helpful to first discuss with your VSO the potential experts that could write your nexus letter(s) before deciding who to ask. Your VSO may be able to suggest a doctor or specialist who is familiar with the veterans’ disability claims process and who may have written successful nexus letters for other veterans.
The VA disability benefits claims process can be lengthy, overwhelming, and frustrating, but finding answers to your disability claims questions doesn’t have to be difficult. Take our free quiz today to determine what resources are available for your specific needs.