Young female veteran sitting on the floor surrounded by paperwork trying to determine the effective date for her VA disability claim

How to Determine the Effective Date for Your VA Disability Claim

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The effective date of your veterans disability claim has relevant implications for your VA disability benefits.


  • A veteran’s effective date determines when they started being entitled to VA disability benefits, impacting the amount of back pay they receive.
  • The VA typically uses the date the condition emerged or when they received the claim, whichever is later.
  • Filing a veterans disability claim within a year of discharge can help secure an earlier effective date.
  • Back pay is the compensation you would have received if the VA had granted your claim on the effective date. Therefore, it is crucial to establish the earliest possible date.

While many vets are aware that it is important to start the clock on their VA disability benefits as soon as possible, they may not know how to ascertain that effective date. Our VetLaw team is glad to provide an explanation of how to determine your VA disability claim’s effective date.

Additionally, we offer context to help vets understand the process. VetLaw has proudly represented veterans across the U.S. in VA disability claims to help them secure the benefits they deserve, with great success.

Our team is ready to get to work for you. Schedule a free consultation with our accessible team at VetLaw by calling (855) 573-1503 or submitting a contact form.

What is an Effective Date?

As a veteran, your effective date is when you started being entitled to VA disability benefits for your service-related illness or injury. If you successfully file or appeal a claim for disability benefits, the VA references the effective date of your claim to establish when your entitlement began so it can calculate your accumulated back pay.

To put it simply, effective dates are important in VA disability claims because they dictate how much you are owed in back pay benefits. Back pay benefits are the payments you would have been collecting all along if the VA had granted your appeal the same day as your effective date.

That is why it is crucial to establish the earliest effective date possible. Keep in mind that if you have more than one service-connected disability or a secondary condition, you may have multiple effective dates.

As you navigate the VA disability claims process, you may be wondering how to determine your case’s effective date. This is a common question we address with clients, as it helps us estimate how much compensation they qualify for.

How the VA Decides the Effective Date for Veterans Disability Claims

When determining a disability claim’s effective date, the VA usually distinguishes claims based on when the condition emerged or when the VA received your initial claim. Note that if there is a choice, the VA will use whichever date is later, in most cases. The following is a condensed version of the VA’s protocol for establishing an effective date.

Type of Claim When VA Received Claim Effective Date

(new or pre-existing)

Within 1 year of discharge As soon as 1 day after discharge
Over 1 year after discharge Day the VA received the claim OR the day the condition arose
Presumptive Within 1 year of discharge Day your condition arose
Over 1 year after discharge Day the VA received the claim OR the day the condition arose


You’ll notice that an effective date for a presumptive condition can be earlier than a standard service-related condition, if a vet files their claim within a year of their discharge. Presumptive conditions are already established service-connected illnesses or injuries. The VA is willing to take financial responsibility sooner for these claims.

How Your Effective Date Can Impact Your VA Disability Benefits

Many veterans do not file a VA disability claim until after they have experienced symptoms of a service-connected condition for some time. There are numerous reasons why veterans delay filing a claim.

For instance, they may be waiting on an official medical diagnosis or not recognize that their condition is service-related. Others wait until their symptoms become severe to take action. Meanwhile, they are potentially losing out on months or years of VA disability back pay benefits.

Unpacking an Example of How Delaying an Effective Date Can Limit Your Compensation

Imagine you were discharged 3 years ago and have been suffering from service-related sciatica for the past 3.5 years. You finally decide to file a VA disability claim. However, the VA sets your effective date as the day it received your claim, not when your symptoms first arose. 

Had you filed within a year of your discharge, your effective date would likely be the day after your discharge. You would have accumulated 3 years’ back pay, plus the back pay you accrued while the VA assessed your claim. That is 36 monthly payments you can’t collect because of a delayed effective date.

Talk to VetLaw About Appealing Your Veterans Disability Claim

Given the impact your effective date has on the VA disability back pay benefits you are entitled to, it is important to understand how to determine your effective date. At VetLaw, our team of VA disability benefits denial attorneys is invested in helping vets secure the compensation they deserve.

This often entails establishing accurate effective dates on their behalf. With VetLaw by your side, you can rest assured that you have effective and empathetic legal representation. Get in touch with us by calling (855) 573-1503 or submitting a contact form.

Our team will help you schedule a free consultation with one of our VA disability appeals attorneys. They will take the time to discuss your case in detail and determine the best path forward.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I appeal the effective date that the VA gave me?

Yes, veterans can appeal the effective date for their VA disability claims. For example, if you believe the VA made a Clear and Unmistakable Error that delayed your effective date and diminished your benefits, you would likely have a case for a VA appeal.

Does my effective date change if my VA disability rating increases?

If the VA grants your appeal for an increased disability rating, you are owed the higher level of benefits starting from when your disability worsened. However, you must have filed your appeal for increased benefits within a year of that date for this to apply.

If your symptoms get worse, but you wait more than a year to file a claim appealing your VA disability rating for the condition, the effective date would be the day the VA received your appeal. 

After receiving a VA rating increase, you are entitled to the higher level of benefits from this updated effective date. Your effective date doesn’t revert to the date you filed the original claim, as your condition was initially less serious. 

Can a veteran disability claims attorney help me with my initial claim for VA disability benefits?

A VA disability claims lawyer is not legally prohibited from assisting a vet with their initial filing. However, their services are geared more towards appealing VA denials of benefits.

VA-accredited attorneys are not allowed to charge legal fees for assisting with initial veterans disability claims. That means their ability to devote time and resources to an initial case is more limited.

If you need support filing your initial VA disability claim, reach out to a Veterans Service Organization (VSO) for help. We advise avoiding VA consultants using shady tactics to manage veterans disability claims. Too often, they overcharge and underdeliver.