Imagine: You filed your claim four years ago. Sick and frustrated, but you see it through, meeting VA’s deadlines, going to all the appointments, and it gets denied anyway. You appeal and you appeal again. Finally, it gets approved! But instead of backdating it four years — like the law says — they set the effective date to last month. No back pay for all that time.
Unfortunately this happens all the time. VA often makes mistakes, but the ugly fact is, when VA makes a mistake it is almost always in VA’s favor, not the veteran. That’s why a key part of my practice is making sure my clients get the earliest possible effective date.
I’ll tell you why. This is personal for me.
In 1990 when I was in the Army, I fractured the sesamoid bone on my right foot and another bone in my left, and had similar related fractures in both knees. Under most circumstances this wouldn’t be a huge deal, because stress fractures can be treated: you just have to largely stay off your feet for several weeks and maintain a lower load for a few months. That wasn’t happening. This was the Army, after all. Instead, I went off profile and suffered through it, because what’s you do. Then I deployed to Saudi Arabia and Iraq and in the end it was 18 months before I saw a doctor about my feet again. By then, the fracture in my right foot was permanent.
Fast forward to 1995. I’m out of the Army, and my disability claim for stress fractures was denied. Why? No proof it ever happened. Nothing documented in service. Because the VA lost my records. They ended up in a file cabinet, where they stayed undiscovered until 2016 (by the VA) and even later before I learned about it.
But I finally got my C-file, pored over it, and discovered VA had those records all along. Not only that, but when my claim was denied in 1995, it was in error. VA had already service connected both feet and both knees, but not even VA knew about it, because they’d lost that too.
30 years of pain in my feet and knees left me with little sympathy for VA. I filed. And guess what? VA came back with an effective date of December 2019. Why? Who knows. Basically they just made up the date.
But I knew the law, and I had the records to back it up. So I appealed, and three months later, it was backdated to 1994. I won’t get into how much the check was, but it paid off our cars, all of our other debts, and my wife’s student loans. It felt like winning the lottery to be honest. Except that this was money that should have been in my bank account all along.
My point? I’m just like you. I’m a veteran who felt like I got screwed. I want to help you win your case with VA, and I won’t accept a made up answer from VA about how you don’t deserve the benefits that you earned.