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How does the VA Assign Effective Dates?

The VA has granted your claim for service connection. You should be done, right?

You may want to take another look: there could be other issues you may need to appeal. The first step is identifying possible problems with your case. When the VA grants a claim for service connection, your primary concerns should be the effective date and the rating assigned for the disability.  Similar to service connection, effective date rules will largely apply to a claim for an increased rating as well.  If you did not receive the earliest effective date possible, you may be walking away from hundreds or thousands of dollars you may be entitled to.  In this post, we will walk through some of the rules that affect effective dates and common problems to watch for.

The VA will look to regulation 38 C.F.R. § 3.400 for the general considerations of effective dates.[1]  As the regulation lays out, generally, the effective date will be assigned as the date the VA received your claim or the date that entitlement arose, whichever is later.  The “date entitlement arose” is the VA’s way of saying the date that they confirmed that your disability existed.  For example, if you submitted your claim for a back disability in January 2015 but the disability was not documented until January 2020, the VA may assign the effective date as January 2020, the “date entitlement arose.”  Now, all of this will be very specific to the facts of your case, as well as some more specific rules we will discuss next.

38 C.F.R. § 3.400 says that the VA will use the date they received your claim as the effective date. But what happens if your claim was denied years ago? Whether the VA uses that claim as the effective date will depend on whether it has been continuously appealed.  If you have pursued that claim and it is the basis for your grant of benefits, it can be used as the effective date.  However, if that claim was denied and you later “reopened” the claim, your effective date will be based on this “reopened” claim.

There are also more generous rules that can allow for an effective date to be assigned earlier than when a claim was submitted.  Some of these are:

  • If a veteran submits a claim within a year of when an injury or aggravation occurs, the effective date is the date of injury or aggravation.
  • If a claim for an increased rating is received within a year of when the disability worsened, the effective date will be the date of the increase in disability.
  • A claim submitted within a year of when a veteran left active duty will be dated to the day after separation.

The rules listed above are far from a comprehensive list of the factors the VA will use when assigning an effective date.  Any claim, including one for an earlier effective date, will depend heavily on the facts underlying the claim.  However, knowing the rules that the VA uses in making its decisions can help you appeal denials, oridentify when an appeal may be necessary.  If you believe that the VA has assigned an incorrect effective date for your disability and would like us to review whether we can help, with an appeal, you can call our intake team at 877-838-1010 for a free case evaluation.

[1] If you need a free to access copy of the regulation, you can find it on the electronic version of the Code of Federal Regulations.  38 C.F.R. § 3.400 specifically can be found at the following link: https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-38/chapter-I/part-3/subpart-A/subject-group-ECFR429f47d98271c40