Earlier Effective Dates

Generally speaking, there are four different ways you can get an earlier effective date for VA disability benefits compensation claims. The general rule for effective dates is the date the VA received the claim, or the date that entitlement arose, whichever is later. 38 C.F.R. § 3.400 (2013). If veteran filed for the claimed disability within a year of his or her discharge, the effective date would be the day after discharge. Any of these can be the basis for a claimed earlier effective date.

Veterans who already have a service-connected claim and want to file a claim for increase may be given the date VA received their claim for increase as the effective date. However, claims for increase have a unique rule that if there is any medical evidence showing the symptoms of veteran’s condition are consistent with an increase, the date of those medical records will be the effective date as long it is within a year prior to filing the claim for increase. For example, if veteran filed a claim October 12, 2014, for an increase in PTSD and his VA medical records dated February 2, 2014, showed his PTSD had worsened sufficient for an increased evaluation, his effective date would be February 2, 2014.

Veteran’s who have a presumptive condition based on exposure to Agent Orange during service in Vietnam have some unique rules that may lead to an earlier effective date. Vietnam veterans who are diagnosed with one of the qualifying presumptive conditions have an effective date of the date VA receives the claim. However, if veteran files for a different condition and is diagnosed with one of the presumptive conditions while the initial claim is pending, he may have the effective date of the initial claim. For example, if veteran files for PTSD and while his claim for PTSD is pending he is diagnosed with ischemic heart disease and it is put in his VA claims file, his ischemic heart disease is treated as if he filed it along with PTSD for purposes of the effective date.

Veteran’s who have done all they can do with a particular claim may consider filing for clear and unmistakable error or a CUE claim. A successful CUE claim is quite powerful because the operative effective date is the initial date of claim. If a veteran files a claim for a right arm condition and is denied and 20 years later files a CUE claim for right arm condition and it is successfully granted, his right arm claim is treated as if it was granted at the initial claim 20 years earlier. These are difficult claims to win but certainly not impossible.