Understanding the Importance of an Effective Date in Your Veterans Affairs Claim

An effective date is when a veteran becomes eligible to receive monthly benefits. A wrong effective date can result in months or even years of missed monthly payments – also called back pay. Fortunately, there are many strategies that veterans can employ to get the correct effective date on their claims. A reputable law firm has helped thousands of veterans win higher disability ratings through effective date appeals.

What Is an Effective Date?

The effective date is the point in time at which a veteran becomes eligible to start receiving compensation for their disability. The effectiveness date is important because it determines how much the Veteran will receive back pay. Generally, the VA will assign an effective date, the later date of separation from service, or the day they receive the claim. However, several exceptions could result in an earlier effective date. Suppose you submit new and material evidence during the one-year appeal period after a rating decision. In that case, the VA usually grants you an effective date earlier than the rating decision. This is because 38 CFR 3.156(c) provides that you can get an early effective date if you have newly submitted evidence that supports your claim. This is a little-known and underused regulation that can greatly benefit veterans seeking disability benefits. It is also very important to check your previous claims for CUE (clear and unmistakable errors) that you can use to get an early effective date.

How Does the VA Decide an Effective Date?

In determining an effective date, the VA weighs two different factors. First, it must consider when the injury or illness arose. This may be based on the date the Veteran received their diagnosis, the day they left service or a combination of both. The VA must also consider when the Veteran filed their claim for benefits. For most veterans, this will be their application date.

In some cases, however, the effective date must be based on a reopened claim or new evidence. For example, suppose a veteran files a Notice of Disagreement with their original rating decision and can show that the prior Decision had a clear and unmistakable error. In that case, the new rating decision must be backdated to the earlier of either the date they submitted their NOD or the original effective date of the claim. This means that the VA will pay them for what they would have been delivered if they had made an error in their initial Decision.

What Happens if the VA Gets the Effective Date Wrong?

An effective date can affect how long a veteran is eligible for monthly payments and can greatly impact the amount of back pay they receive. A VA attorney is frequently contacted by veterans who have been given an incorrect effective date. The general rule is that an effective date should be either the date the VA received the claim or the date that entitlement arose, whichever happened later. This is why it is important to apply for disability benefits as soon as possible.  However, this rule can get complicated. If the Veteran or their surviving spouse challenges the Decision that assigned an effective date, they must file a direct appeal with the BVA. This type of claim is called a CUE (Clear and Unmistakable Error) Claim. It can be very difficult to win a CUE claim because the VA is notorious for dragging its feet on them. Appealing your Veterans Affairs claim effective date can potentially result in adjusting your gifts to a more accurate start date based on your eligibility.

How Can I Get an Early Effective Date?

A Veteran or surviving spouse can get an early effective date if they successfully appeal the Decision that assigned the wrong one. However, this takes work. It requires a collateral attack on the Decision at either the regional office or the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. This type of appeal is called a “CUE” claim or a Claim for an Earlier Effective Date based on a Clear and Unmistakable Error. The effective date of a disability benefit is very important. It affects other types of benefits the Veteran might be able to receive, including survivor pensions, state property tax exemptions, and even life insurance. Veterans must review past decisions to see if errors in their effective dates could be corrected with a CUE claim. These errors can prevent the Veteran from losing valuable back pay if fixed. This is why the Veteran needs to seek help from a qualified attorney early on in the process.

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