Many Veterans logically believe that on their claim the date of entitlement should go back to the date that the problem first arose. Unfortunately the applicable VA law on this point isn’t as favorable to the Veteran as one would hope. General rule is that effective date is the date the VA receives the claim or the date that entitlement arose whichever is later. 38 U.S.C. 5110a. It is that whichever is later language that prevents back payment going back to the date the problem first arose.
For a reopened claim the effective date is the date the VA receives the reopened claim (as opposed to the original claim) or the date that entitlement to the benefit arose whichever is later. Sears v. Principi, 349 F. 3d 1326 (Fed Cir. 2003). Date entitlement arose: is the initial date on which it appears the claimant satisfied all of the substantive criteria for entitlement to the benefit as determined from a review of all the evidence included in the record when VA approved the claim. Is usually the date the claim was first submitted. McGrath v. Gober.
Many times the date entitlement arose is the date the vet was discharged from service, but many times could be long after discharged since an injury could be latent. Note for PTSD the date of entitlement is often the date that the Vet was actually diagnosed with PTSD although it could be earlier if the diagnosis states that he/she first started suffering earlier. To receive the earliest effective date so that the effective date is from the original claim you must file and prevail on a claim for revision of the final decision on the original claim for clear and unmistakable error, but this is tough, and is a whole other topic. The lesson here should be that the Veteran should apply for benefits as soon as possible and then perhaps more important never give up on that claim so that you don’t have to reopen later. The law is especially favorable to claimants who apply for benefits within 1 year of discharge since if this is done the entitlement date is the day following the day of discharge. Unfortunately many claimants don’t experience their service related problems so soon after discharge since often there is a long latency period.