Appealing VA Claim Effective Dates: Steps to Maximize Your Benefits

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Several factors can determine your effective date. If you have a new piece of evidence that could impact your effective date, such as new treatment records, it is essential to seek professional advice.

Veterans’ disability lawyers can help you determine if your effective date should be changed and what strategies are best for your case. They have successfully helped many clients secure earlier effective dates through the VA appeals process.

Submit a Notice of Disagreement (NOD)

If you disagree with the VA’s Rating Decision and want to appeal it, you must file a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) within one year from the date on the cover letter of the Rating Decision. A NOD must be submitted on VA Form 21-0958.

Your NOD should identify the issues you disagree with in the Rating Decision. This can include whether your medical condition was service-related, the effective date of your award, and the evaluation of your disability.

If a NOD contains multiple issues and at least one of the issues requires clarification, follow the procedures in M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, 3.E.1. This includes requesting further evidence and conducting telephone contact with the appellant or their representative. If an appellant raises non-appeal issues on an NOD, do not consider them a new claim unless they are within the scope of the appeal issue. 

Submit a Supplemental Claim (SC)

As of February 2019, veterans can take three options for a review under the new Appeals Modernization Act (AMA). These three options are called “decision review lanes,” allowing a veteran to have their case examined in a specific way.

You can opt into this lane within one year of the decision that you disagree with. With this option, you can submit new and identified evidence to a senior reviewer who will examine it and determine whether it changes the decision. You can also request a one-time, informal conference with the reviewer to identify errors you think the original adjudicator made.

This lane allows a veteran to add new evidence and ask a judge at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals to examine the case. The goal is to get your chance to a judge within a year of the date that you submit a Supplemental Claim. This is a more expensive option. 

If you’re interested in appealing VA claim effective dates, find out more through the VA’s official resources or consult a veterans’ advocate for guidance.

Submit a Notice of Appeal (NOA)

If you opt-in, you can have your case returned for a higher-level review by a senior claims adjudicator. This is an entirely new review of your claim, but you and your representative cannot add any additional evidence during this process.

The law requires the VA to consider both the date you applied for benefits and the date your entitlement arose, but they must pick the earlier one. For example, if your back injury occurred in service and you filed for disability benefits within a year of discharge, your effective date would be the day after you left service.

There are some exceptions to this rule, however. If you can prove that a clear and unmistakable error was made during the Court’s decision-making process, getting an effective date back to your original claim may be possible. This is a scarce situation, however.

Submit a Notice of Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA)

If you still want to improve your Rating Decision or Supplemental Claim, the next step is to appeal at the BVA level. This process can take several years to reach a final determination. Consult an experienced veterans’ disability attorney to ensure your claim moves through the proper appeal lane.

After a VA appeals officer reviews your NOD, they will send you a Statement of the Case. The statement will include their decision and a summary of the evidence submitted. You can request a hearing before a judge, where you can present new evidence. The judge may ask you questions, but this is not a cross-examination.

You can also submit a direct review request without a hearing to have a judge review your evidence based on what was presented in your supplemental claim or RO denial letter. However, this will significantly lengthen the time it takes for a final decision, as a judge will review your records again.