Successfully applying for disability compensation from the VA is just the start. You’ll also want to know your VA effective date, which determines when you start receiving benefits. It also determines whether you’ll receive any backpay benefits for time spent with your disability before you were covered.
Unfortunately, VA effective dates for disability compensation can vary depending on several factors. Let’s look at different VA effective dates and explain how they might impact your benefits claim.
Put simply, an “effective date” for anything, including disability compensation, is when the VA begins paying a veteran their disability benefits based on their claim. The date doesn’t have to be in the future, or the day the VA receives a benefits claim; it can also be in the past.
The effective date determines when the disability benefits ought to have started for the veteran if they experienced disabling injuries or conditions before receiving VA benefits coverage. Think of the effective date as when you should have received money, regardless of whether you did.
That said, the effective date for disability compensation is whatever the Department of Veterans Affairs receives an application for benefits.
For example, if you send the VA an application for benefits on January 1, but they only approve your benefits claim on March 1, you will start receiving Veterans benefits from March 1 onward. Plus, you will receive benefits for the two months before that when you send your application in.
The effective date can matter heavily for veterans who require extensive financial compensation. Why?
In a nutshell, the VA will often pay full retroactive benefits back to the effective date. For example, suppose a veteran receives disability benefits two years after submitting their application. In that case, they still have to pay medical bills and other related expenses for their injuries while they wait for the disability claim’s approval.
To compensate the veteran for waiting, the VA pays the veteran based on the effective date two years prior. This way, the veteran gets all the money they deserve even if it comes somewhat “late.”
The standard effective date is normally fine for disability benefits. However, some veterans require extensive reviews or lots of backpay because their VA disability claims are denied or stalled. Therefore, you need to know common VA effective dates for disability compensation to prepare your finances.
The VA decides effective dates for disability compensation benefits slightly differently depending on the circumstances of the claim, the veteran’s injury status, and other factors.
If you have a direct service connection to your disability and your military service, the correct effective date for your benefits is either:
For example, if you were injured on September 1, 2020, but submitted your initial claim on December 1, 2020, and it’s approved, the VA may start your effective date on September 1 because that is when you received your service-connected injury.
If you have a presumptive service condition, it means that the VA thinks your disability is related to your military service automatically. One good example is Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam Veterans, which is a presumptive factor in several injuries like cancer that arose after the Veteran’s discharge from the military.
Suppose you file a claim with a presumptive service condition, and the VA receives your claim within one year of your separation from active service. In that case, the general rule is that your effective date will be the day you received your illness or injury.
If the VA receives your claim more than one year after separating from the military, the effective date will be the date on which the VA received your claim or whatever you got your illness or injury, whichever is later.
What if you have to reopen a disability claim for one reason or another?
In that case, the VA’s effective date for your disability benefits is when it receives the claim to reopen or the date you received your illness or injury. Whichever is later is the effective date.
Sometimes, laws can change VA regulations or disability compensation rules. If that occurs, your effective date will be assigned as follows:
VA benefits are awarded to veteran families if a veteran dies in service. Also called Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), the VA’s effective date for these benefits is the first day of the month the veteran died or was presumed to have deceased.
Note that this only applies if the VA receives the claim within one year of the date of the report of the death (presumed or actual). Otherwise, the VA defaults to the standard effective date: the day it receives the claim.
From time to time, the VA can make an error in disability benefits applications. If the VA discovers an error, the effective date of the new disability benefits decision will be the date on which the VA should have paid benefits if the error hadn’t occurred.
Sometimes, medical professionals or VA representatives may have differences of opinion. Suppose a VA decision is made based on a difference of opinion that may change the effective date for a veteran’s VA disability benefits. In that case, the effective date will follow the revised opinion (if favorable).
What if your disability gets worse?
The VA usually dates back increases in disability ratings to the earliest date possible when the veteran can show their symptoms worsened. For example, suppose a veteran applies for an increased rating decision based on new symptoms connected to an active duty injury, and the VA agrees with the upgrade. In that case, the VA will back pay the new benefits awards to the date the veteran’s symptoms worsened.
If a veteran leaves the service and the VA receives a disability benefits application within one year, the effective date is the day after the veteran leaves the service. This can occur if a veteran realizes they’ve suffered an injury shortly after the date of discharge.
If you need an earlier effective date for your disability benefits, you can convince the VA of this necessity through several possible channels.
For example, you can show a clear and unmistakable error or “CUE” to persuade the VA to accept an earlier effective date. This is a rare VA error, such as an error in paperwork showing that your symptoms began in a different month than they truly did.
Alternatively, you can receive an earlier effective date even if the VA denies your benefits claim if you obtain service or medical records that prove or substantiate your original claim. This can be powerful historical medical evidence when looking to appeal an initial benefits decision.
Similarly, if you have new and relevant evidence to submit within the appeal period for a benefits claim, the VA’s Board of Veterans Appeals may accept an earlier effective date for your disability benefits. This usually only applies if you have evidence showing that your symptoms or service-connected disabilities began earlier than the date entitlement arose in the eyes of the VA.
In general, your VA effective date for disability compensation benefits is when the VA received your claim or when your illness or injury began. While other situations might have different effective dates, knowledgeable veterans law attorneys like Berry Law can help you determine when to expect payments and whether any backpay is coming your way.
Want to know more, or just need assistance filing a successful benefits claim in the first place? We can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Disability Compensation Effective Dates | Veterans Affairs
How VA Determines Effective Dates for Disability Compensation: When Veterans Back Pay Starts | Nolo.com
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – Presumptive Disability Benefits | VA.gov
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