FAQ Friday: When is my effective date?

FAQ Friday: When is my effective date?

Q: What is an effective date?

It is the start date the VA uses to pay you benefits.  When VA grants a disability compensation claim, they assign an effective date to that claim. Your effective date will vary depending on when you submit your claim and the circumstance under which your claim was granted.

Your effective date is important because VA will pay you retroactive benefits (i.e. back pay) back to your effective date. So, even if the VA’s decision is partially favorable, the wrong effective date would mean less total compensation.

Q: How does VA decide effective dates?

For disability compensation cases, the effective date of your claim is whichever of these comes later:

  • the date VA receives your claim (most common), or
  • the date you first got your illness or injury (VA refers to this as “the date entitlement arose”).

If VA receives your claim within 1 year of the day you left active service, the effective date can be as early as the day following separation. (See next question for more details.)

Q: I submitted my claim within 1 year of the day I left service. When will my effective date be?

In most cases, if you submitted your claim for disability benefits less than 1 year after the date you left active-duty service, your effective date will be the day following your separation from service. This day is considered the “date entitlement arose” — rather than the date of your in-service injury, illness, or event — because only veterans (not servicemembers) are eligible for VA benefits.

Q: I submitted my claim more than a year after my discharge from service. When will my effective date be?

If you submitted your claim more than a year after leaving service, your effective date will be assigned in the standard way. That is, your effective date will be whichever of these comes later:

  • the date VA receives your claim (most common), or
  • the date you first got your illness or injury (VA refers to this as “the date entitlement arose”).

Q: VA increased my disability rating. When will the effective date of the new rating be?

If you have been receiving disability benefits and later the VA grants your claim for an increased disability rating, your effective date for the increased rating will be the earliest date when you can show (through medical records, etc.) there was an increase in the disability. This is only true, however, if VA receives your claim within 1 year of that date. Otherwise, the effective date will be the date VA receives your claim for an increased rating.

Q: I’m reopening a previous claim. When will my effective date be?

Usually, the effective date for a reopened claim is the date VA receives the claim to reopen.

(Not sure how to reopen a claim? Check out our post on how to reopen a claim with new and material evidence.)

However, there are two cases in which you may be able to receive an earlier effective date: 1) If your claim is pending, or 2) if your claim is reopened because new service records that are relevant evidence in your case have been made available.

Your claim is considered pending if…

  • you have not filed an appeal, but the deadline to appeal has not yet passed; or,
  • you have filed an appeal, but a final decision has not yet been made on the appeal.

Your claim may be reopened with new service records if those records are:

  • official – i.e. gathered from the Department of Defense (DoD), your military service department, or the VA archives; and,
  • new – i.e. they existed at the time you filed your claim and they have never been included in your claims file.

If your claim fits either of the descriptions above, determining your effective date is a bit trickier and beyond the scope of this post. But you can check out this post on new and material evidence to find out how.

Q: VA law changed and I can now qualify for benefits (for example, a presumption was established or the requirements for a specific condition changed, etc.). When will my effective date be?

If there’s a change in the law or regulations that govern VA disability compensation that allows you to qualify for disability benefits, the effective date may be assigned in the following ways:

  • If VA received your claim within 1 year of a law or regulation change, the effective date may be the date the law or regulation changed.
  • If VA received your claim OR reviewed your claim more than 1 year after the law or regulation changed, the effective date may be up to 1 year before the date VA received your request.

Q: VA admitted to making a clear and unmistakable error in deciding my claim. When will my effective date be?

If VA acknowledges making a clear and unmistakable error in a prior final decision, the effective date of the new decision will be the date from which benefits would have been paid if there had not been an error in the prior decision (i.e. what should have been the effective date originally).

Q: I submitted my claim for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits within a year of my spouse’s death. When will my effective date be?

If VA receives your claim within a year of your spouse’s death, your effective date will go back to the date your spouse died.

If, however, you submit a DIC claim after a year has passed, your effective date will be the date VA receives your claim.

Category: Veterans Law