When filing for your VA disability benefits, you should prepare for a challenging and lengthy procedure. Some Veterans have to wait for months and even years until they receive the correct disability rate and their VA benefits payments.
Here at Veterans Claims United (VCU), we are all too familiar with the challenges that Veterans and their family members face on the way to receiving their well-deserved VA disability benefits in full. And during this difficult period, Veterans often have to get by somehow while their service-related disabilities prevent them from making a sustainable income.
VA disability back pay, also known as retroactive disability pay, is a sort of lump sum, compensation owed to the Veteran for the period between the date the claim was filed and the date it was approved.
In this article we’ll discuss:
- Who is entitled to VA disability back pay?
- How does the VA calculate this retroactive payment?
- When and how can you apply and receive your back pay?
Continue reading, and we will answer these and many other questions related to the VA retroactive disability pay to make sure that you receive all the benefits you are entitled to for your honorable service.
What is VA disability back pay?
VA disability back pay is a lump sum payment covering the months or sometimes years that may elapse between the onset of the Veteran`s disability and the official approval of the claim.
There are several factors that make you entitled to a VA disability back pay:
- Service-Connected Disability
To be eligible for disability compensation and back pay, your disability must be considered service-connected. This means that the disability or medical condition must have been incurred or aggravated during active military service.
- Effective Date
The effective date is usually the date you filed the disability claim or the date the VA determines the disability began, whichever is later. Back pay covers the period from the effective date to the date of the claim’s approval. That is why it is crucial to determine the effective date correctly to prove that you are entitled to retroactive pay.
- Retroactive Benefits
In some cases, the VA may grant compensation for the time period preceding the effective date. It is called Retroactive Benefits. Suppose the VA determines that your disability began before you filed the claim and the VA was notified within one year of the claim being filed. In this case, you may be entitled to retroactive benefits.
- Increase in Disability Rating
If your disability worsened or aggravated and your VA disability rate has increased during the claim processing period, you are also entitled to the VA disability back payment for the period during which the disability worsened or was reevaluated.
It is important to remember that the VA disability back pay in many ways depends on the VA effective date as this is the exact day that you become eligible for the VA benefits. The gap between the effective date and the date that the VA approves your claim will determine your entitlement for the VA back pay.
Let`s dive deeper into this matter and see how the idea of VA back pay works.
VA Effective Date Explained
The VA effective date is the date from which the countdown of your entitlement to VA benefits begins. It is critical to understand that there is more than one event that can be considered as a VA effective date. Here are the possible scenarios:
- Date of Claim
The effective date is usually the date you file a formal claim for disability compensation or other VA benefits. This is the most common scenario, and it serves as the starting point for determining when the veteran becomes eligible for benefits.
- Date of Medical Evidence
Sometimes the effective date can be set to a date prior to the filing of the claim if you submit medical evidence demonstrating that the disability began before the filing of the claim. In such cases, the VA will review the medical evidence to determine an earlier effective date, which increases the waiting period and your retroactive compensation.
- Presumptive Effective Date
In some cases, the VA may set a presumptive effective date for disability compensation (ex. Agent Orange Exposure, Former Prisoners of War (POWs), Radiation-Exposed Veterans). A presumptive effective date means that the date from which the veteran’s entitlement to benefits begins is predefined by law or regulation, and it is not necessarily linked to the date the veteran filed the claim.
Knowing about different types of VA Effective Dates can help you receive the maximum benefits you are entitled to. Delays in filing a claim could result in a loss of back pay for the period between the effective date and the claim’s filing date. That is why it is a wise step to talk with a professional who may help you determine the effective date correctly and probably extend the claim processing gap, which will increase your chances for the VA back pay.
How the VA Calculates Back Pay
So, we have determined that the effective date serves as the starting point that will determine your entitlement for the VA retroactive pay and the amount of this compensation. But how does the overall calculation of the VA back pay work?
Except for the effective date, the VA will also consider the disability rating assigned to your service-connected condition as well as some other factors.
Here is how the back pay calculation process works:
- Effective Date
The VA will use the effective date as the starting point for calculating your back pay.
- Disability Rating
The VA will assign a disability rating to your service-connected condition. This is a percentage scale that reflects the severity of the disability and determines the amount of monthly compensation that you will receive. This rating can range from 0% to 100% in increments of 10%.
- Monthly Compensation
The VA will then establish a disability compensation according to your disability rating. The higher the disability rating, the higher the monthly compensation.
- Retroactive Benefits
Retroactive benefits come into action if the VA finds that the disability began before you filed the claim if it happened within one year. It may add to the awaiting period and increase the VA back pay.
- Lump Sum Payment
Once the effective date and disability rating as well as possible retroactive benefits are determined, the VA calculates the amount of back pay. You will receive a lump sum payment covering the period between the effective date and the date of the claim’s approval.
In some cases, the VA may consider other factors, such as dependents’ benefits, cost-of-living adjustments, and concurrent receipt of military retirement pay, which can also affect the total amount of back pay.
As you see, on the one hand, there is no formula that would allow you to calculate the estimated back pay precisely, but at the same time, there are lots of factors that may increase or otherwise minimize the compensation and even affect your entitlement for it without your knowledge.
That is why it is to your advantage to get expert advice that can you make informed decisions regarding your VA disability claim.
How to Receive VA Disability Back Pay
Except for an extended processing period for your initial VA disability benefits claim there are many cases and scenarios that can may you entitled to the VA disability back pay. For example, your disability may get worse during the waiting period, the previous Vas decision can be challenged due to an error in the processing, your claim can be reopened or approved after a denial, etc.
The good news is your VA benefits back pay is not limited by some particular period. Even if your effective date is determined as early as 15 years ago, you are still entitled to the compensation. Technically, the VA issues the back pay automatically and it usually takes about three months from the moment your compensation is approved until the day that you receive the payment.
However, it is essential to follow the VA disability benefits claim procedure thoroughly in order to make sure that you will be entitled to the back pay in the end.
Here is a step-by-step guide on the process:
- Gather your medical records
Collect all relevant medical records related to your service-connected disability. These records will serve as evidence to support your claim.
- Complete VA Form 21-526EZ
Fill out VA Form 21-526EZ, “Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits.” You can find this form on the VA website or visit your local VA office to get a printed copy.
- Provide your supporting documents
Submit all necessary documents, such as your medical records and any other evidence that supports your disability claim. The more thorough your evidence, the greater your chances of receiving an accurate disability rating and effective date.
- File your claim
Submit the VA Form 21-526EZ and supporting documents to the VA.
- Receive and study the notification of decision thoroughly
After the VA has reviewed your claim, you will receive a letter informing you of the outcome of your disability claim. This letter will include your disability rating and the effective date.
- Receive your back pay
If your claim is approved, the VA will calculate the amount of back pay owed to you based on your disability rating and the effective date. You will receive a lump sum payment covering the months or years between the effective date and the date of the claim’s approval.
Of course, this is a perfect course of events which is unfortunately rarely the case especially if you are filing for the VA disability benefits on your own. Once you receive your notification of a decision, you may realize that the disability rating is much lower than you expected or that there is an error in the effective date. You may also find out that you are entitled to retroactive benefits.
If you disagree with decisions dated before February 19, 2019, you’ll need to file a Supplemental Claim (VA Form 20-0995). In case the disputable decision was made after February 19, 2019, you can choose from 3 decision review options:
- Supplemental Claim (VA Form 20-0995)
- Higher-Level Review (VA Form 20-0996)
- Board Appeal (VA Form 10182)
Remember that you will be able to request only one decision review per issue at a time, but you can try another option if you are not satisfied with the results of your previous choice.
As you can see, in either case, the guidance and assistance of a qualified professional familiar with the current legislation can be vital for the outcome of your case.
VCU specializes in providing support and guidance to Veterans, helping them navigate the VA system and maximizing their entitlement to back pay and ongoing compensation. Contact VCU today and take the first step towards receiving the VA back pay, the recognition of your honorable service, and the compensation you deserve.