It can be an overwhelming process in the path to obtaining your VA benefits. Within the process, it is imperative to always be aware of the dates and deadlines that can affect your right to benefits and how much you may receive. There are several dates that you need to always be cognizant of, such as timelines to file an appeal, and when you must take certain steps to preserve your rights. Information about the different processes and dates can be found here. One of the most important dates in your claims process, which can control what benefits you are entitled to is called the effective date.
The effective date is typically the date in which a claim is first filed with the VA or the date in which entitlement to VA Benefits arose; whichever is later. This is important because this date is when you will be able to begin earning benefits, and the earlier the date, the greater your total award will be. Further, if a claim is filed within one year of the date of your separation from service, than your effective date may be designated on the day following separation from service. One significant piece of information to know about the effective date is if you believe the date should be earlier, there are several avenues you can take to set your effective date to receive benefits to the date you believe you are entitled to. One of the most important actions you can take to preserve your effective date is to file your Notice of Disagreement within 1 year of the date your Rating Decision is released. If not, your claim may be dismissed (or your right to appeal will lapse), and you would have to file a new claim, in effect creating a new [and more recent] effective date.
However, even if a claim were to lapse, you may still be able to connect a recent claim to your original effective date. 38 C.F.R. Section 156(c)(1) states “if [the] VA receives or associates with the claims file relevant official service department records that existed and had not been associated with the claims file when VA first decided the claim, the VA will reconsider the claim.” This means if the VA did not review all records it had or could have had at its disposal on your previous claim, you may be able to get your effective date retroactively applied, and therefore receive the benefits beginning on the earlier date. Another possible path to obtain an earlier effective date is to establish that the RO made a Clear and Unmistakable Error (CUE) on your claim. CUE claims can be granted when there is a VA mistake, and but for that mistake, the claim would have been granted. If CUE is established, then your effective date may be set on the date which benefits would have been payable had there not been an error.
There are a several other paths towards obtaining the proper effective date, such as a claim involving exposure to Agent Orange or a claim for increased rating, which are discussed in detail here. Always remember, if you feel that the RO did not associate your claim to the proper effective date, all is not lost and you do have several options to reach the outcome, and proper effective date you rightly deserve.