How Does the VA Handle Back Pay for Disability Claims?
Understanding how the VA determines the amount of your back pay
It’s no secret that the VA has a backlog of benefits claims a mile long, which often delays news about benefits for months or even years. If you’ve had your claim approved, but it’s been a while since you submitted the original documents, you are eligible for back pay.
Back pay, like many details surrounding VA disability benefits, can be complicated. Most veterans want to know if they’re getting back pay, when they will receive it, and how far back it will go. We’ll break down the process so you have a clear understanding of how the VA handles back pay for disability claims.
A quick review of VA disability benefits
Veterans who suffered a disability as the result of their service are eligible to receive VA benefits. These benefits are dependent on a disability rating of 0 – 100%. The time it takes the VA to process claims, determine ratings, and make a decision on benefits is what causes the extreme backlog.
The VA estimates that it takes about three to four months to process a claim from start to finish, but it can take much longer, leaving veterans without the benefits they deserve.
What is back pay?
Back pay (also known as retroactive benefits) is the money you are owed from the time you filed your claim to the time it was granted. It’s paid in a lump sum, all at once, after the benefits are granted. So the longer it took for the VA to award your claim, the larger your back pay will be.
What are effective dates?
When the VA approves a claim, they assign it an effective date, which is the date you were eligible to start receiving your disability benefits. Back pay covers the time between this effective date and when the claim is approved.
Timing and type of disability are everything when it comes to the effective date, so it’s important to understand how these factors may affect your personal claim experience.
The effective date is usually either the date the claim was received by the VA or the date of diagnosis of the disability being claimed (also known as entitlement arose), whichever comes later.
In some instances, the VA may grant an earlier effective date:
- For recently discharged service members who file a claim within one year of leaving the service
- For Nehmer claims that affect Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange
- When a clear and unmistakable error was committed, preventing the right information from being considered or the law from being applied correctly
Certain situations or changes in disability rating may impact your effective date and increase the delay in getting your benefits.
- Rating increase: Veterans with a worsening disability are eligible to file a . As with other benefits claims, the effective date here is typically the date the VA received the claim. If there is evidence to support that the condition worsened before the rating increase claim was received, the effective date will be the date of that evidence.
- Rating reduction: There are plenty of instances in which a veteran’s service-related disability improves over time, which may result in the VA proposing a rating reduction. In these cases, the effective date will either be the date of a medical exam showing improvement or the date of the actual reduction decision.
- Worsening disability: As time goes on, service-related disabilities often worsen. Because the VA claims process can take years, it’s not uncommon for a veteran to experience a declining condition while their claim is still active. If this is the case, the VA will assign a staged rating, which assesses how the severity of a disability changed over time. As you might imagine, a staged rating can complicate the process and make the back pay calculation more difficult.
How much back pay will you receive?
Back pay is determined by the effective date of your claim and your overall disability rating. The longer your claim took to process and the higher your disability rating, the larger your back pay amount will be.
If your claim took years to process, the VA will use historical compensation rate tables to determine the back pay amount appropriate for each year. The veteran’s marital status and number of dependents throughout that time will also affect the amount.
Get the benefits you deserve
Whether you are just starting your VA disability claim, are looking to increase your disability rating, or need more information on back pay, Veterans Guardian can help you get the benefits you deserve.
Our team of fellow veterans understands that military service can have significant and lasting impacts on your physical and mental health, which is why we are here to help you navigate the process.