Veterans frequently contact our office regarding effective dates for their VA disability claims. They have many questions about how the effective date was assigned, and whether or not the VA made an error when assigning their effective date.
The effective date is important in a VA disability claim as it is the date the VA will pay back to when a claim is granted. For example, if a claim has an effective date of May 1st, 2015, that isn’t granted until May 1st, 2016, the Veteran is entitled to compensation for the year that passed since the effective date.
Generally speaking, the effective date will be the date the VA received the claim or the date that entitlement arose, whichever is later. Additionally, if a claim is filed within a year of the Veteran’s discharge, the effective date would be the day after discharge. However, the VA does not consistently hold to these rules.
When the VA makes an error on the effective date for a Veterans claim, Veterans do have options. Veterans who believe they were given an incorrect effective date have the ability to appeal. Appealing your effective date could make a substantial difference in the amount of backpay you receive.
If you need assistance appealing your effective date, Berry Law can help. We’ve helped Veterans successfully appeal incorrect effective dates, resulting in large backpay awards for our Veteran clients. Contact our team today to schedule a free case evaluation with our team.
The effective date for a VA claim is a date the VA assigns to your case that determines how far back they will pay retroactive benefits if your VA claim is approved. Basically, your effective date is the date the VA begins paying for your disability.
The effective date is established when the VA receives your VA disability claim. For example, if you submit a claim for disability benefits on March 22nd, 2021, you may presume this is your effective date. However, this line of thinking is incorrect as the date isn’t when you submitted the claim, but the date the VA receives the claim. So, if the VA received your claim on March 25th, 2021, that would be your effective date.
Why Your Effective Date Matters
Your VA disability claim’s effective date is very important because it has a big impact on the amount of disability compensation you will receive. In essence, the earlier your effective date the larger your retroactive benefits will be.
We have represented clients who were given incorrect effective dates that were years later than the date they should have been given. This means until they contacted us to appeal, they were missing out on thousands of dollars in VA compensation.
While effective dates may seem very straightforward, there are many instances where the VA assigns the incorrect effective date for your claim. In most cases, it is as simple as the date the VA receives your VA claim. However, you may run into effective date problems if:
You attended a medical examination – If you attended a medical examination, the VA may incorrectly use the date of the examination instead of the date they received your VA claim for your effective date. If this happens, you should appeal the effective date with the assistance of an attorney.
You appealed your claim – If you appeal your claim, the VA may use the date of the appeal as the effective date instead of the date they received your appeal. This is also incorrect. If the VA uses the date of your appeal as the effective date, you should further appeal your claim to get this corrected.
You reopened your VA claim – If you reopen your claim, you may be confused that your effective date is now the date the claim was reopened, not the date the VA first received your claim. While this may seem wrong, it is actually correct. That is why it is so important that you continue to appeal unfavorable decisions for your claim. If you fail to do so, you could lose your effective date and potentially miss out on tens of thousands of dollars in retroactive benefits.
You recently left service – If you recently left the military and applied for disability benefits within a year of your separation from service, your effective date should be the day after you left the military instead of the date the VA receives your claim.
There was a change in VA law – If there was recently a change in VA law that allows you to receive disability benefits for your condition, your effective date will be the date the law was changed if you file your claim within a year of the law change. However, if you file a claim one year after the law changed, your effective date will be the day the VA receives your claim.
If you disagree with your effective date, you should appeal with the help of an attorney.
What happens when the VA gives a Veteran the incorrect effective date? Just like when the VA makes any error on your claim, you can file an appeal.
Commonly, Veterans can appeal their effective date by utilizing the Higher-Level Review lane. This lane allows Veterans to request a senior VA claims adjudicator to review their claim without submitting any additional evidence. While this is often succesful, sometimes the VA continues to make errors when deciding your effective date.
If the VA continues to deny your appeal, you may appeal your effective date up to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). A Higher-Level Review is often the best option at first, but the VA has been denying effective date appeals more frequently, so appealing it up to the BVA is unfortunately becoming more common.
You can appeal an effective date on your own, but we have successfully helped hundreds of clients appeal incorrect effective dates. If the VA made an effective date error on your claim and you would like to appeal, contact Berry Law for a free case evaluation.
There are times when the VA will make an error when assigning an effective date for either service connection or an increased evaluation. Occasionally, we notice that the VA will use the date of a medical examination as the effective date instead of the date the claim was received by the VA. While this may seem like a minor error, Veterans who simply accept the date of a VA medical examination as the effective date could be losing out on compensation they are entitled to. This is because the date evidence is submitted or the date of the existence of evidence does not determine the effective date of a VA disability claim. As mentioned before, the effective date is assigned based on when the VA receives the claim or the date entitlement arose, whichever comes later.
Date Errors Our Attorneys Have Noticed
The mistake mentioned above has been a common issue for Veterans we represent. We’ve been hearing a lot about this lately, so here is a common scenario:
The Veteran filed a disability claim in 2015. The VA then ordered a compensation and pension examination (C&P). The Veteran went to the C&P examination but was denied service connection. The Veteran continued to appeal the matter until it got up to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) in 2020 and gets remanded. The remand instructs the VA to give the Veteran another C&P examination.
So, in 2020, the Veteran gets another C&P examination. When the Veteran finally gets the rating decision in 2021 granting service connection, the Veteran is surprised to see that the effective date is 2020 (the date of the exam rather than 2015 the date of the original claim). When that happens, the Veteran has the right to appeal the effective date of that decision. Utilize the graphic below for a visual representation.
Court rulings have sided with Veterans regarding effective dates for claims. McGrath v. Gober, 14 Vet. App. 28, 35 (2000) found that the date evidence was submitted or the date of the creation of evidence does not determine the effective date of a disability. It was determined that the effective date shall be set to the date the disability manifested itself. So, when evidence is submitted or created does not impact a Veterans effective date. For this reason, medical examinations play no role in determining an effective date.
If a Veteran files for service connection or an increased evaluation, the VA may wait months or even years before providing a VA examination. If the VA then grants the Veteran service connection and gives them an effective date that matches the date of the VA medical examination, the VA has avoided compensating the Veteran for the period between filing and the examination. Such decisions can be challenged and can result in the VA granting the Veteran an earlier effective date and additional back pay awards.
At Berry Law, we are committed to fighting on behalf of Veterans. As a team founded by a Vietnam Veteran, it is our mission to ensure Veterans receive all the disability benefits they’re entitled to. If you have been denied disability benefits or were given an incorrect effective date, we may be able to help. Contact Berry Law today to schedule a free case evaluation.
Berry Law Firm
Established in 1965 by Vietnam War veteran and attorney John Stevens Berry Sr., Berry Law Firm is a team of veterans dedicated to defending, safeguarding, and fighting to protect the rights of veterans. Over the decades, thousands of veterans from across the country and all branches of the military have trusted our firm with their cases and, more importantly, their futures.
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