The general rule for effective dates is the later of the “facts found” or the date of claim. There are many exceptions to this, however. One thing you can do is to take your information to an experienced VA lawyer, and have them review your case and see if you should get an eed. They will review it for free, and you dont have to hire them. You can hire someone else, or even self represent, and use their advice for free.
Their advice is particularly compelling. You see, they put “their own money on the line” when they agree to accept you as a claimant. They will have expenses, such as copies, postage, and filing fees, for example. And they “up front those”, as well as labor, for years, before they will see a dime. So they really do put their own money on the line, by upfronting your costs, and not get a cent until way down the road. This is why if you have a good claim, and an attorney is willing to represent you on a contingency, you can be pretty sure the attorney thinks your case is solid, or they would turn you down. You dont have an attorney client relationship until YOU sign the fee agreement, but you can keep your ears open and listen, and sometimes can use their advice to represent yourself.
However, I have had good luck with attorney representation. Alex, apparently also got 1994 retro, if I recall, in no small part because he hired an attorney. If anyone could do this without an attorney, it would be Alex, but he hired one. That should tell you something. Few of us have Alex’s knowledge. For example, he knows Latin, which is used in the court system..all that habeous corpus, pro se, jibberish of the attorneys and judges. He has also extensively studied case law, especially related to hep c. But HE hires an attorney. Why? For the same reasons you might: That you “net” more money with the attorney than without one. In other words, his attorney earned his fee, and actually “makes” the Vet money. Its true that attorneys win about double the cases from the VSO’s, but they win larger settlements, too, in no small part because attorneys dont want to sue the VA for a hundred bucks. They will turn a Vet down if the potential retro is not enough to make it worthwhile for them.