Veterans Benefits Attorney Mike Woods explains why your VA Disability effective date matters:
Why is my VA Disability effective date so important?
VA cases take a long time and when your case is finalized, the government has to pay you retroactive benefits. These retroactive benefits go back to your effective date. Therefore the right effective date can put thousands of dollars in your pocket.
No part of a veteran’s case is more important than the effective date. Here’s an example… Suppose your VA case takes four years and after that time, you’re found to be disabled. That’s $3,000 a month for 48 months. Which works out to about $150,000 in cash when your case is done, plus $3,000 a month for the rest of your life.
Normally, the effective date is the date the claim is filed, but there are ways to push it back. Many of these involve re-opening old cases by locating old records not included in the previous claim. In cases I’ve gone over, I have found old cases where the veteran lost, and the reason the veteran lost is because old service records are not included in the old claim.
Often these cases result in forcing the VA to pay, not just to the effective date of the claim that was pending, but back to the date when the old claim was filed. We were able to find those old records, submit it, re-open the old claim, and force the VA to pay, not just to the effective date of the claim that was pending, but back to the date when the old claim was filed.
We’ve also had cases re-opened years later where we found that the veteran didn’t even realize an old claim was still pending, but the VA never filed the correct paperwork to finalize the claim. Once again, you might have years and years of past-due benefits that the veteran is owed and didn’t even realize it.
Another way we’ve been able to push back the effective date is on Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) cases where, in some cases, the Social Security claim can be taken as a claim for veteran’s benefits. Often we are able to get the widow benefits, not just to the date the claim was filed, but all the way back to the death of her husband many years ago.
The right effective date is often worth thousands of dollars.
VA Disability Effective Date Rules
Date Entitlement to the Benefit Began or Date the VA Received Application
The general rule for effective dates on the first application is based upon the date medical evidence of the disability existed or the date the VA received your application, whichever is later. For example, suppose a veteran is diagnosed with PTSD in January 2018 and applies for benefits in March 2018. It is most likely that veteran’s effective date is March 2018.
Clear and Unmistakable Error Claims
If your Clear and Unmistakable Error (CUE) claim is successful, you may obtain an earlier VA Disability effective date. You will take the effective date of the original claim as if you would have won in the first place.
Recently Discharged Veterans
If a veteran filed a VA Disability application within one year of discharge from active duty, the VA Disability effective date is the discharge date. In other words, the VA Disability effective date is not the application date, but the discharge date.
Increased Rating Claims
The VA Disability effective date for Increased Ratings claims is the date you submitted your Increased Rating claim. This is why it is so important to submit your Increased Rating claim as soon as your mental or physical impairments worsen.
Vietnam veterans that were exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam and now are ill have special rules for VA Disability benefits. Your VA Disability effective date for Agent Orange claims can go back to the date the VA recognized the illness on the Agent Orange presumptive list.
Change in Law
If there was a change in law and you apply within one year, your VA Disability effective date may be the date the law changed. For example, suppose the VA ends up recognizing burn pit exposure injuries from Iraq and you apply within one year, your VA Disability effective date is the day the law changed.
New and Material Evidence Submitted for Appeal
Submitting new and material evidence in the appeal process does not change your VA Disability effective date. For example, suppose you submitted a claim in December 2017 and were denied in April 2018. You file your Notice of Disagreement in August 2018, then submit new and material evidence in September 2018. So what is your VA Disability effective date? In this case it is December 2017 when you submitted the claim.
FAQ: VA Disability Effective Date
What if I never received a decision from an old claim?
If the VA failed to make a decision on an old claim, it could be considered open. Here is how that works: a veteran submits a claim in 1998, the VA acknowledges receipt yet never issues a Rating Decision. This does happen and many veterans forget about their claims until years later. Suppose in 2018 that same veteran inquires into their claim. If the veteran can prove the VA received the claim in 1998 but never made a decision, it could be considered still open. If that case is won, there could be 20 years of missing back pay. If the veteran was owed a 100% veterans benefits rating, the accumulated back pay may total over $700,000.
What if the VA never told me I was eligible for disability benefits?
This unfortunately is not a reason to obtain an earlier VA Disability effective date. Even though the VA has a duty to assist, that does not mean you can challenge effective dates based upon the VA’s inaction.
What if I am able to re-open a claim years later?
If you are able to re-open a claim, you may be able to take the original VA Disability effective date. Some veterans are able to re-open claims from decades ago. For these types of claims, we highly suggest you contact a veterans disability benefits lawyer. The longer the claim goes back, the more complicated the claim can be. There are literally thousands of rules and regulations that can affect your claim.
Are TDIU effective dates affected if I haven’t been able to work for years?
Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) claims follow the same rules as all other claims. The fact that your service-connected conditions prevented you from working for the last few years will not affect your effective date if you apply while you are not working. This is one of the most common questions vets ask our veterans unemployability lawyers about when it comes to effective dates. Many of these vets heard incorrectly from a friend that the date you quit working is your effective date and it is not.
How long can it take to challenge an effective date?
There are almost a half-million claims waiting to be decided. VA watchdog groups report the backlog is even worse than what VA officials say. Challenging an effective date can take years. Do not let that discourage you from fighting for what is yours.
Talk to Woods & Woods About Your Effective Date
Since 1985, Woods & Woods VA disability compensation lawyers have successfully represented thousands of veterans. Our experienced veterans benefits lawyers know how to get you through the entire VA appeals process.
If you have questions about your VA Disability effective date, give us a call. Woods & Woods VA Disability lawyers never charge for legal consultations. You can ask us questions and we’ll answer them at no cost.
You only pay Woods & Woods VA benefits appeals lawyers if you win your appeal. If you hire us and we don’t win your appeal, you pay our lawyers nothing. Not a penny. We never ask for money upfront, we never bill by the hour, and we do not charge for phone calls.
Need help understanding your VA Disability effective date? Reach out to us for a conversation about your VA Disability rating, back pay, and effective date. We can figure out what is the next step you should take to obtain VA Disability benefits. Our VA accredited disability attorneys are dedicated to helping America’s bravest men and women fight for the compensation they earned by serving our country. If you need help, we are here.