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Effective Date of Disability

When we decide we’ll pay a disability benefit based on a claim, we assign an effective date to that claim.

The effective date is the day you can start getting your disability benefits. This varies with the type of benefit you’re applying for and the nature of your claim.

How does VA decide effective dates?

Learn how we decide effective dates in different cases. It’s complex. Hang in there.

Direct Service Connection

The effective date for a disability that was caused—or made worse—by military service is whichever of these comes later:

  • The date we get your claim, or
  • The date you first got your illness or injury (also known as the date your entitlement arose)

If we get your claim within 1 year of the day you left active service, the effective date can be as early as the day following separation.

Example 1
Shaun is a Veteran who ended his active service on September 30, 2013, with a hearing disability. He filed a claim for his hearing problem more than a year later.

We got Shaun’s claim on November 15, 2014. On March 10, 2015, we awarded Shaun a 30% disability rating with an effective date of November 15, 2014—the date we got the claim.

Example 2
Ric is a Veteran who ended his active service on September 30, 2013, with a hearing disability. He filed a claim for his hearing problem less than a year later.

We got Ric’s claim on July 5, 2014. Because we got it within 1 year of his separation from active service, we awarded Ric a 30% disability rating with an effective date of October 1, 2013—the day after Ric’s separation from the military.

Presumptive Service Connection

In most cases, if we believe your disability is related to your military service (known as a presumptive service connection)—and we get your claim within 1 year of your separation from active service—then the effective date is the date you first got your illness or injury.

If we get your claim more than 1 year after your separation from active service, the effective date is the date we got your claim or when you first got your illness or injury—whichever is later.

Example 1
Beth is a Veteran who separated from active service on September 30, 2013. Medical tests from April 15, 2014, showed she had hypertension (high blood pressure).

Less than 3 months later, Beth filed a claim that we got on July 1, 2014. We concluded that her high blood pressure was related to her service. Because we got the claim less than 1 year after Beth separated from active service, the effective date was April 15, 2014—the date when she first got her illness.

Example 2
Susan is a Veteran who ended her active service on September 30, 2013. Medical tests from April 15, 2014, showed she had hypertension (high blood pressure).

More than a year later, Susan filed a claim that we got on October 2, 2014. We concluded that her high blood pressure was related to her service. Because we got the claim more than 1 year after Susan separated from active service, the effective date was October 2, 2014—the date we got the claim.

Reopened Claims

The effective date for a reopened claim is the date we get the claim to reopen, or the date you first got your illness or injury, whichever is later.

Liberalizing Law Change

If there’s a change in law or VA regulation that allows us to pay disability compensation (monthly payments), the effective date may be assigned in any of these ways:

  • If we get your claim within 1 year of a law or regulation changing, the effective date may be the date the law or regulation changed.
  • If we review your claim—or you request a review—more than 1 year after the law or regulation changed, the effective date may be up to 1 year before the date we got your request or the date we decided to pay benefits on your claim.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

For claims based on a Veteran’s death in service, the effective date is the first day of the month in which the Veteran died, or was presumed to have died. This is true only if we get the claim within 1 year of the date of the report of the Veteran’s actual or presumed death. Otherwise, the effective date is the date we get the claim.

If the Veteran’s death happened after service and we get the claim within 1 year of their death, the effective date is the first day of the month in which the Veteran died.

If the death happened after service and we get the claim more than 1 year after the Veteran’s death, the effective date is the date we get the claim.

Error in a Previous Decision

If we find a clear and unmistakable error in a prior decision, the effective date of the new decision will be the date from which benefits would’ve been paid if there hadn’t been an error in the prior decision.

Difference of Opinion

A decision that’s based on a difference of opinion will have an effective date of the original decision, had it been favorable.

Increases in the Disability

We date back increases in the disability rating to the earliest date when you can show there was an increase in disability. This is only if we get the new claim request within 1 year from that date. Otherwise, the effective date is the date we get the claim.

Disability or Death due to a Hospital Stay

If we get a claim within 1 year after the date the Veteran suffered an injury, or their existing injury got worse, the effective date is the date the injury happened or when it began to get worse.

If we get a claim within 1 year of the date of a Veteran’s death, the effective date is the first day of the month in which the Veteran died.

If we get a claim more than 1 year after a Veteran suffered an injury, their injury got worse, or they died, the effective date is the date we get the claim.