I applied for disability when I got an honorable discharge in 1969 for injuries in basic training. I was denied. I again applied in 2009. Again denied. I applied again in 2017 and received 40% disability. I asked about retroactive benefits back to 1989 and 2009 because the disabilities were there at those times. I was told I can't apply because I didn't keep the inquiry "active". Bottom line I didn't know better that I could object to the decisions. Since they finally agreed that they caused the problems, how can I make it clear that I deserve the payments back to 1969? I was finally made aware of the details of the injuries and two operations and hospital stays of 38 and 15 days while in the service. Thank you.
The rules and regulations are based in Title 38 law (here) and they are clear that once a benefit is denied, the veteran has one year from the date of the denial to initiate an appeal. If no appeal is started, the claim is permanently closed and would have to be reopened as a new claim in the future. As with most laws, a lack of knowledge or ignorance of existing law isn't a legit excuse for not following it to the letter. I'm not aware of any way to fight what's happened to you without Congress changing the rules.