Today, we’re going to talk about a few of the special situations in which the rules for effective dates are different from the norm. For many veterans, the claim process does not necessarily end after they are awarded service connection for their disability. This is because there is another aspect to claims which the VA often gets wrong – the effective date. The rules for effective dates of awards are one of the most confusing aspects of VA law, because there are so many exceptions and special scenarios that have different rules. The rule in general for effective dates is that the effective date of a claim is the date the claim was filed. But, there are many situations in which this general rule does not apply, entitling you to an earlier effective date.
The first special rule applies to claims alleging clear and unmistakable error (CUE). If the VA grants a claim challenging a previous final RO or BVA decision based on CUE, the effective date is the date that the VA received the previously denied claim. This means there is potential for many years of retroactive benefits for these types of claims, but it is important to note that these claims are very difficult to win.
If a veteran files a claim for disability compensation within one year from the date of discharge, another special effective date rule applies. In this situation, the effective date for the award would be the day after discharge, as long as the veteran had the disability on the day after discharge. Note that this special rule only applies if the claim is initially successful. If a claim is denied and becomes final, and the veteran reopens the claim at a later date, the effective date does not go back to the date of discharge. There is a similar rule for death and indemnity compensation (DIC) claims that are received within one year of a veteran’s death. If such a claim by a surviving family member is granted, the effective date is the first day of the month in which the veteran died.
Another situation with complicated special effective date rules occurs when a veteran files a claim for increase in disability rating within one year of the date that the disability got worse. In order for this special rule to apply, the disability must already be service connected. If a veteran has a service-connected disability that gets worse, and files a claim for increase within one year of the date that the evidence shows the disability got worse, the effective date should be the date that the evidence shows the disability got worse. In order to prove a veteran’s disability got worse within one year of the claim for an increased rating, the best evidence is going to be medical evidence, such as a statement from a doctor who can show when exactly the condition worsened and medical records that show the condition has worsened. A statement from the veteran can be helpful in this situation as well, but it is always helpful to have that statement be backed up by medical evidence. It is important to note that the VA rarely initially grants these earlier effective dates for increased ratings, so if you file for an increased rating and are not given the correct effective date, you should appeal that decision.
As you can see, the rules for effective dates are complicated, and often vary greatly depending on the particular aspects of a veteran’s claim. They are also something that the VA gets wrong often, so it is always important to check the effective date of an award for benefits in order to make sure you are getting all the compensation to which you are entitled.