How Do You Determine the Effective Date of Veterans Disability?
What is an Effective Date?
The effective date is the date which VA uses as a start date to pay the veteran disability benefits for their claim. The effective date essentially determines how much the veteran will be entitled to in retroactive benefits (i.e., benefits the Department of Veterans Affairs owes the veteran for the time it took to grant benefits). In most cases, the effective date is based on when the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) received the application for benefits.
For instance, if a veteran applied for veterans disability on January 13, 2017, and VA received the application on January 18, 2017, the 18th is the effective date. Since monthly benefit awards begin the first day of the month following the effective date assigned, VA would owe the benefits starting February 2017.
Establishing the correct date is important because VA will pay retroactive benefits back to that date. This means that even if a decision is favorable, the wrong date could lead to a smaller retroactive award for the veteran.
When Might My Effective Date Be Different?
While a direct service connection effective date is usually the date VA receives the claim, certain circumstances may change the change this date. These circumstances include:
Recent Separation from Service
If VA receives your benefit application within a year of your separation from service and later grants your claim, your effective date is the day after you left the service.
Presumptive Service Connection
If VA presumes service connection for your medical condition — and received your application within a year of you leaving the service — your effective date is when you became disabled or when VA receives your application (whichever is later). If VA receives your claim after one year following your release from active duty, your effective date is when VA receives your application.
Change in Law
Your effective date depends on when VA receives your claim. If it receives your claim within one year of a “liberalizing law change,” it might be the date the law changed. If VA receives your claim more than one year after the change, your new effective date is the date VA received your claim.
Appeal for Increase in VA Disability Rating
If you submit an appeal for an increase in disability rating, and VA receives it within one year of the event that triggered the entitlement to an increased rating, your effective date is the date you first became eligible for an increase. If more than one year has passed, the effective date for your increase is the date VA receives your appeal.
Who Decides What A Veteran’s Effective Date Is?
VA will determine a veteran’s effective date. Usually, it is whichever of the following dates come latest:
- 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”).
However, if VA receives a veteran’s claim within one year of leaving the service, the effective date may go as far back as the day of separation. This day is considered the “date entitlement arose.” The reason it must be the day after the veteran left service is that only veterans, not servicemembers, can receive VA benefits.
Reopening a VA Claim
If a veteran reopens a previous claim, the effective date will usually be the date VA receives the claim to reopen it. However, if the veteran’s claim is reopened because new and relevant evidence, such as new service records, have become available, then the effective date may be earlier.
Records that can be considered as new evidence must be both new and official. Official records are generally those gathered from the Department of Defense (DoD), a military service department, or the VA Archives. New records can include records that existed at the time the veteran filed their claim but were not included in the veteran’s original claims file.
Clear and Unmistakable Error (CUE) Claims
Additionally, if VA acknowledges making a clear and unmistakable error in a prior decision, then the effective date for the new decision will be the date from which benefits would have been paid if an error was not made in the prior decision. Essentially, if VA determines that it has made an error, the date of the new decision will be what should have been the original effective date if the mistake was not made.
More on Increased Ratings
The effective date can differ between when a veteran is granted service connection and when a veteran is granted an increased rating for their condition. In claims for an increased rating, VA generally uses the date the veteran’s condition increased in severity as the effective date and grant the increased benefits from that date. In determining an increased rating, VA may look at lay statements, medical evidence, and Compensation and Pension exams to aid in deciding whether the veteran’s condition warrants an increased rating.
Staged ratings may also impact a veteran’s increased rating claim. Staged ratings refer to the process when VA rates a veteran’s conditions multiple times during the appeal period and increases or decreases the rating based on severity.
How Do Effective Dates Work for Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU)?
Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) is a benefit awarded to veterans who are unable to obtain substantially gainful employment on account of their service-connected conditions. TDIU benefits compensate the veteran at the 100 percent rating, even if their service-connected conditions may not add up to the 100 percent rating.
Applying for TDIU is different than filing a typical claim. While claims for conditions are typically filed on the VA Form 21-526EZ, a claim for TDIU is filed on VA Form 21-8940, Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability. The effective date for TDIU is generally the date the form was submitted.
However, TDIU can also be filed as a part of an underlying claim for benefits. This means that a veteran’s claim for TDIU may go back to the date of their claim for service connection, or for an increased rating. This is often referred to as TDIU being of any claim for benefits, so long as the condition prevents the veteran from working.
How Do Effective Dates Work for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Benefits?
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is awarded to a veteran’s surviving spouse or dependent children on a monthly basis after that veteran has passed. In order for VA to award this benefit, the service member must have either died in action or died from a service-connected condition.
There are a few ways to indicate that the veteran passed away from a service-connected condition. The death certificate may list the cause of death as one of the service-connected conditions, in which case VA should acknowledge this without further investigation.
In cases where the service-connected condition contributed to the cause of death, VA generally should presume the connection and acknowledge this without further investigation. Importantly, if the veteran passed away from a condition that was not yet service-connected, the surviving spouse or dependent children may still file for DIC. However, these claims may take longer.
If the claim for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation is filed within a year of the veteran’s death, the effective date will be the date that the veteran died. If VA receives the claim more than a year after the date which the veteran passed, then the effective date will generally be the date that VA receives the claim.
Do You Believe the VA Assigned You an Incorrect Effective Date? Call Us Today
Incorrect effective dates are not uncommon and can cost you thousands in retroactive disability benefits. If you believe VA assigned you the wrong effective date, we may be able to help. Our accredited veterans attorneys and advocates have decades of experience helping file successful appeals to get them the correct effective dates and the benefits to which they are entitled.
Call Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD for a free consultation today at 800-544-9144.