There is no statute of limitations to apply for veterans disability compensation or other VA benefits. However, you should file an application for benefits (article) as soon as possible after you are disabled. It can take the VA months or even years to grant you benefits.
Fortunately, when the VA does grant you benefits, it will backdate your benefits to the date of your original application. This means that you will receive a lump sum payment from the VA to cover the period of time between when you filed for benefits and when you were finally awarded benefits.
Note there is a deadline for filing an appeal if you are denied benefits.
If your VA regional office has denied you benefits or given you a low rating that you think is inaccurate, or if you disagree with the effective date of benefits, you can appeal. You have one year from the date of the denial letter the VA sent to file an appeal, called a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). There are no extensions for this deadline.
Bear in mind that when you have applied for disability benefits on the basis of multiple disabilities, the VA may not make a decision about all of your disabilities at once. Watch for additional denial letters, which again trigger the one year period for appeal. You must appeal the denial for each disability within one year after it is issued by the VA.
You can request review by a Decision Review Officer (DRO) when you file your NOD, or at any time after that (you will get a DRO review faster than a hearing with the Board of Veterans Appeals). If the DRO grants you service connection (meaning the DRO agrees your disability is related to your service), but you disagree with the disability rating or effective date, you can request another DRO review.
For more information about filing an NOD, see our article on how to appeal a veterans disability denial.
While the VA is very slow in issuing decisions, once you have received a Statement of the Case (SOC) in response to your NOD, you have only 60 days to file an appeal with the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA).
The Statement of the Case (SOC) is a summary of the evidence the VA reviewed in making its decision and an explanation of the law the VA applied, as well as an explanation of the decision. Normally, along with the SOC you will receive a copy of VA Form 9, a Substantive Appeal form. To request your appeal to the BVA, you will need to file Form 9 and explain why the decision was incorrect. You can find Form 9 on the VA website www.va.gov/vaforms.
In some cases, the Statement of the Case will not give you enough information about how the VA reached it's decision, so that you can't adequately explain the reason you are appealing. In these cases, the VA has to issue a Supplemental Statement of the Case (SSOC). As long as you file Form 9 within 60 days after you receive the original SOC, you don't need to refile after receiving a Supplement Statement of the Case.
You can either decide to ask the BVA to reconsider their decision, or you can file an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). If you decide to give BVA another bite at the apple, you can do so at any time. There is no statute of limitations.
If you decide to appeal to the CAVC, you have only 120 days from the date of the BVA decision to file your Notice of Appeal. This is about four months. If you miss this 120 day deadline, you will lose your right to appeal to the CAVC. The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) is a special court just for veterans claims and it is designed to provide oversight over VA decisions to make sure that the VA complies with the law.
The Notice of Appeal to the CAVC does not need to be on any special form. You can simply write a letter to the court asking for an appeal. However, you must make sure to include all of the required information that is listed in Rule 3(c) of the Court's Rules of Practice and Procedure. These rules can be found at the CAVC website at www.uscourts.cavc.gov/.
It is a good idea to have a disability lawyer at this stage, and to get a lawyer as soon as possible, so the lawyer will have adequate time to prepare arguments for your appeal.
You can request, in certain cases, that a denied application be reopened and reconsidered. There is no time limit for doing so. Your request will only be granted, however, if you have "new and material" evidence. New means evidence that was not available at the time of the original decision, and material means evidence that would have likely changed the outcome of that decision.
Just like a request to reopen a claim, you can file a request for revision of a previous final decision based on clear and unmistakable error (CUE) at any time. However, showing there was CUE is a very high standard to meet and you will likely need the assistance of a veterans disability attorney to determine if this is the right course of action for you.
Not only is there no statute of limitations for apply for VA benefits, there is also no limit to the number of times you can apply for benefits. This means that if you are denied benefits at every level of appeal, you can start all over again with a brand new application
As you can see, you have many options for appealing VA decisions. For example, you can request to have a prior claim reopened while a new claim is being reviewed at the BVA. Or you can request a DRO review after filing a BVA appeal. But be careful, because filing too many appeals can clog up your case and cause further delays. The same is true of filing too many applications for benefits. It may be beneficial to consult a disability attorney to determine your best course of action.