VA Disability Back Pay

Category: Veterans Disability Law

Article by Tuley Law staff

VA Disability Back Pay

VA Disability Back Pay: Retroactive Benefits & VA Back Pay Timeline

Veterans who are injured or disabled during military service are entitled to financial compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). To earn these benefits, veterans must file a claim detailing the severity of their injury and the in-service event that caused it.

Although veterans can submit a claim soon after their service, they may not receive any benefits until VA finishes processing their decision. Veterans will receive VA disability back pay for the time between their initial claim and VA’s first payout.

What is VA Disability Back Pay?

VA disability “back pay” is the money owed to a veteran that the VA should have been paying them from the time they became entitled to compensation (what the VA calls the “effective date”) through the time the VA actually granted the veteran’s claim. The VA can often take months or years to grant benefits, depending on several factors.  However, the longer you wait for a decision, the more back pay you will be owed.

What is an Effective Date?

The effective date refers to the start date of your benefits.

The effective date for a disability that was caused or worsened by military service is whichever of these occurs later:

  • The date of the claim
  • The date you first experienced your illness or injury

If you file your claim within one year of the day you left active service, your effective date will be the day following separation.

VA Disability Back Pay for Increased Rating

One exception to the VA disability back pay criteria is extended to veterans that experience an increased rating for their disability. If a veteran’s disability gets worse, they can file for an increased rating. If VA approves their claim, the veteran will receive retroactive benefits for the difference between ratings back to the date when the disability worsened.

Assume a veteran has had back pain rated at 20% since January 1, 2015. That same veteran filed for an increased rating beyond 20% for his disability on August 1, 2017. If there were medical records proving the veteran’s disability worsened at any time before August 1, 2017, the veteran would be paid a lump sum retroactive benefit for the difference in compensation for those months/years. If the medical records stated that the veteran’s back pain increased to a 40% rating on March 1, 2016, the effective date would be March 1, 2016, despite the claim being filed on August 1, 2017.

The veteran would then be paid the difference between ratings back to the effective date. If a 20% rating pays $100 a month, and a 40% rating pays $200 a month, the veteran would be paid the difference of $100 for each month between August 1, 2017, and March 1, 2016—all in a lump sum.

VA Supplemental Claim Disability Back Pay

A new lane for disability claim appeals allows the veteran to present new information which was not used in the initial claim. Supplemental claims are closely tied with increased ratings because the new information provided could change the initial decision. As long as a supplemental claim is filed within one year of receiving VA’s decision letter, the effective date remains the date of the initial claim. Therefore, if a veteran’s supplemental claim is approved, they may receive large VA retro payments that can cover the span of multiple years.

If the veteran waits more than a year to file a supplemental claim for a VA decision, the new effective date will be the date the supplemental claim was filed. This could result in a substantial loss of disability benefits for the veteran.

VA Retro Pay for Dependents

Veterans can also earn VA disability back pay for dependents. If a veteran did not have dependents to add at the time of their claim or simply neglected to add existing ones, they may be eligible for additional back pay. An individual has 365 days after their original application to apply for VA disability back pay for dependents if they hope to keep the effective date of their initial claim. If they wait more than one year before filing for a spouse, child, or another dependent, their back pay will likely only extend back to the time they filed a claim for extra dependents.

VA Unadjudicated Claims

An unadjudicated claim is any disability claim or appeal that stays open as a result of a VA system oversight. While VA has become substantially more organized, mistakes are still made that cause claims to go unnoticed. Sometimes these claims are statements requesting benefits, which constitutes an informal claim. VA adjudicators are sometimes so overwhelmed that they do not notice informal claims.

If VA fails to issue a Statement of the Case after a proper Notice of Disagreement is submitted, this claim will also be considered unadjudicated. Similarly, unadjudicated claims can arise if the Board of Veterans’ Appeals doesn’t adjudicate an appeal in a timely manner after the veteran files a Substantive Appeal.

These unadjudicated claims can be activated by the claimant at any time with an effective date extending all the way back to the date the claim was initially filed. Since effective dates are decided by claim dates, unadjudicated claims can be the source of large VA retro payments. The longer these claims sit, the more back pay veterans will be paid.

VA Effective Dates for TDIU

Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) is awarded to individuals who are unable to work as a direct result of their service-connected disability. TDIU benefits are equal to a 100% disability rating and continue for as long as the veteran is unable to work.

Previously, TDIU was viewed as a separate claim; the effective date for an initial claim would not carry over. Rice v. Shinseki changed this and made TDIU an issue in support of the original claim. Now, as long as a disability that was already claimed is the one preventing you from finding and keeping substantially gainful employment, you can receive TDIU without resetting your effective date.

As opposed to being paid TDIU benefits from the moment you made your TDIU claim, you would be paid from the moment when medical evidence showed you could no longer work.

For example, a veteran has cervical pain that was rated at 50% on January 1, 2018, and medical records showed that the cervical pain progressed to a point when the veteran could no longer work on June 1, 2018. The veteran then filed a claim for TDIU on December 1, 2018. Because the medical records show the veteran was unable to work from June 1, 2018, the veteran will receive TDIU back pay all the way to June instead of the claim date in December.

VA Back Pay Timeline

The VA back pay timeline depends heavily on how quickly you perform the necessary actions. If you consistently return required documents within deadlines, VA will likely be able to keep up with its projected wait times. The longer you wait to follow VA’s instructions, the longer it will take for them to award you the competition you deserve. Those who receive the largest VA back pay often have long-standing claims that have remained unadjudicated for many years.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Does VA Back Pay work?

VA benefits will begin paying out once your claim is fully processed. Disability benefits will begin being paid out in monthly payments. On top of that, VA will issue your back pay in a single lump sum. Most VA Regional Offices issue all retroactive benefits in a single payment, but some include it in the monthly payments or pay over multiple installments.

My VA Claim is complete—when do I get paid?

The speed at which VA processes your claim depends on a variety of factors, including the nature of your disability, the amount of information you include in your claim, and the number of applications your VA regional office receives all contribute to processing times. Once your claim is fully processed, you should begin receiving monthly payments and be issued VA disability back pay.

Contact Tuley Law Office Today

At Tuley Law Office, we specialize in veterans’ disability benefits. If you are a veteran of the United States military and have questions about receiving VA back pay, contact the attorneys at Tuley Law Office today. Applying for benefits and receiving the back pay you deserve can be a challenge, but our experienced legal team can answer questions you may have about the process.

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