We hear from many of our clients that they have been advised to just withdraw their claims and file new claims, rather than submit additional evidence in support of the pending claim. Is this a good idea?
This often comes up when you have a claim with missing evidence – let’s say you had a back injury in service and you have a back disability now, but you didn’t have any medical opinion saying that your current back disability is related to your injury in service (a “nexus opinion”). You filed the claim in 2008 and it’s been at the Regional Office since then.
You talk to a doctor who tells you that he does think there’s a relationship between the two, and he writes you an opinion, explaining why he believes that there is a relationship. The best thing to do is to submit that opinion to the Regional Office (be sure to keep a copy and to either take it in person or send it certified mail!)
Someone tells you, “Oh, no, things will happen much faster if you withdraw your claim, then submit a new one with all the evidence.” Here’s the problem – if you do that and are then granted benefits, your claim would be effective as of the date you filed your new claim, not the date you filed your original claim. So, you could lose as much as 4 years of back benefit payments if you do this.
Under the law, the “effective date” of a claim is generally the later of the day the claim arose (say, when you developed your current back disability) or the date VA received your claim. If you withdraw the claim filed in 2008 and file a new claim to reopen with your new evidence in 2012, the effective date of your claim will be 2012, not 2008.
The bottom line – it’s always better to continue an ongoing claim when you obtain new evidence than to withdraw the claim and start over.