When a veteran first files his or her VA disability claim, it may take months or years for the VA to approve it. But that doesn’t mean the VA starts paying out benefits beginning with the date on which it approves a claim. No; instead, the VA is responsible for awarding disability benefits going all the way back to a veteran’s effective date, meaning the date when the claim was first submitted or when entitlement arose (i.e. when an injury or illness presents). These payments constitute what is referred to as VA disability back pay, and it has a few subtle rules that complicate how you get it and how much you’re owed.
Timing is Everything: Basics of Back Pay Effective Dates
Put simply, VA disability back pay is the amount owed to a veteran between his or her effective date and when the claim is approved. Your assigned disability rating plays a big part in how much you’re owed, but the date you file your claim is critical to how far back you’re paid. It’s best if you’re able to file your claim within a year after leaving active service since back pay can be awarded as far back as the day after discharge. It’s also important to understand that the VA will not reward back pay for any period during active service. The earliest you can claim back pay is the date after your discharge. It all starts with what kind of service connection you can claim for your disability.
Disabilities with Direct Service Connection: if your disability was caused or worsened by military service, your effective date may be the date your claim is filed or the date when you first received your illness or injury. If you file within a year of discharge, your effective date is the day after your separation. If you file more than a year after discharge, your effective date is the date on which you filed.
Disabilities with Presumptive Service Connection: if your disability is related to military service, your effective date may be when you first received your illness or injury or the date when your claim is filed. If you file within a year of discharge, your effective date is the date (post-discharge) when the illness or injury is proved to have first presented. If you file more than a year after discharge, your effective date is the date on which you file.
C&P Exams and Staged Ratings
Additional back pay may be rewarded to a veteran who can prove a condition is worsening over time. A compensation and pension (C&P) examination can determine whether a veteran’s condition has improved or worsened. If an exam shows a worsening disability, the effective date for additional back pay is the date on which medical evidence first shows the worsening condition. Veterans with open appeals, which may take a long time to close, can be assigned a staged rating, which tracks the severity of the disability over time to assist in calculating back pay. Since the disability may continue to get worse, it’s vital to continue documenting its progress to make a claim for additional, adjusted back pay over the years.
How Back Pay is Calculated
Back pay is all based on your assigned rating (which may become a staged rating), the amount of time elapsed between your effective date and filing date, and a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) if enough time has gone by between those two dates. Worsening conditions and filing dates are only two ways that a claim for back pay can become overly complicated, sometimes resulting in the VA making errors at the expense of veterans, which is why it’s often best to seek professional assistance when filing and appealing your claims for VA disability benefits. Our attorneys at VA Disability Group PLLC are on hand to assist you with your claims today. Make sure you receive the back pay you deserve by requesting a consultation online or calling us at 844-VET-LAWS.