Is the effective date of your VA award correct?

The rules concerning exactly when your VA award becomes effective are complicated, but they are important to understand because they impact the amount of backpay that you will receive after an award is made.

The general rule is that the VA will pay you back to the date that you first filed your claim. So, if you filed your application for service connection for PTSD in January 2015 and the VA makes the award in April 2015, you will receive a lump sum award to account for the months January through March. Generally speaking, the VA will pay you back to the date you first filed your claim even if you are initially denied (and denied again and again and so on…), so long as you don’t let any appeal deadlines slip by without filing your appeal. Therefore, it is very important to keep your case open by meeting all appeal deadlines.

Things get more muddy, however, when a veteran is initially denied and allows the deadline to appeal to expire. In these cases, the veteran must file new and material evidence to “reopen” his claim. If the claim is subsequently granted, the VA will not go back to the date the veteran initially filed the claim. Rather, the VA will go back to the date that the veteran filed new and material evidence to reopen his claim. So, let’s say a veteran files a PTSD claim in 1971, and the VA denies it in 1972 and the veteran does not appeal. In 2010, the veteran files a new claim for PTSD and gives the VA new evidence. Based on this new evidence, the VA grants the claim. Will the VA pay the veteran back to 1971? The answer is no. In this case, the veteran did not file his appeal after the 1972 denial and the case became final. The VA would only pay the veteran back to 2010.

As you can probably expect, there are some exceptions to these general rules. For example, even if a veteran doesn’t get an appeal in on time, certain types of evidence submitted within the time to appeal may leave the case open. I’ve also seen cases where the VA fails to interpret a document that the veteran files as an actual appeal and then erroneously closes out the case. These things can mean an earlier effective date for the veteran, but it takes a very trained eye to see them. Clear and unmistakable error, or CUE, is another avenue to obtaining an earlier effective date for an award. Given the complexity of the rules governing effective dates, it’s always a good idea to check the date that the VA assigned to you and make absolutely sure that it is correct.

Questions About the Effective Date of Your VA Award?

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