Service members who file a claim for disability benefits may wait many months before receiving a decision from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). If the VA ultimately awards benefits, it typically owes the veteran back pay for the period between the effective date of the claim and the decision granting it. But how long it actually takes to receive this VA compensation back pay may vary.
What Is VA Disability Back Pay?
Back pay is any money owed to a veteran from the effective date of their disability claim to the date the VA granted benefits. The VA usually reimburses veterans in one lump sum.
How the VA Calculates Effective Dates
Under VA compensation back pay rules, the VA decides effective dates differently depending on the circumstances. But, in almost all cases, your effective date will be earlier if you file your claim within one year of the event that triggered eligibility for benefits. So do not delay in filing your claim.
Direct Service Connection
Most veterans have to prove that their service directly caused or exacerbated their illness or injury to be eligible for disability benefits. For these individuals, the effective date is whichever comes later:
- The date the VA received your claim; or
- The day your entitlement arose, meaning the day you became ill or injured.
However, your effective date can be the day after you left active service if the VA receives your application within one year of your separation.
Presumptive Service Connection
In some cases, the military presumes your service caused your disability. Examples include veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange or burn pits.
If this presumption applies to you, and you file your claim within one year of separation, your effective date is when you first became ill or injured.
For those filing more than a year after leaving active duty, your effective date is the latter of the VA’s receipt of your claim or your entitlement date.
When you request to reopen a claim, the effective date is the day the VA receives your request. It would be later only if your disability developed after you filed your claim.
Changes in the Law
On August 10, 2022, Congress passed The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. Among other things, this act expanded the list of conditions presumed to be caused by service.
When the VA makes veterans newly eligible for benefits by law, the effective date is the day the statute or regulation changed if you file within one year. If the VA reviews your claim more than a year after the legal change, the effective date may be up to a year before the VA received your request or decided to pay you benefits.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
When families seek DIC within a year after a veteran dies, the effective date is the first day of the month in which they died. For claims filed over a year later, the effective date is when the VA receives the claim.
Disability Rating Increases
For claims filed within a year of when your disability worsened, the effective date is the day the disability increased. Otherwise, it is the claim receipt date.
VA Compensation Back Pay Timeline
According to the VA’s website, you should get your first payment within 15 days after the VA notifies you that you received a disability rating of at least 10%. You likely will receive it faster if you sign up for direct deposit instead of waiting for a check by mail.
But a 2021 report by the VA’s Office of Inspector General acknowledged that delays of 90 days or more did happen. It also admitted that, in many cases, the VA was at fault.
What can you do to expedite your payment? First, make sure to keep your address and bank information up to date with the VA. If you experience changes in your marital status or add dependents, update the VA promptly, as this may affect their calculations.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that delays may be more common in more complex cases. For instance, if the VA owes you several years of back pay and your disability worsened over time, the VA must calculate staged ratings. This involves determining what rating and corresponding benefit amount applied during each time frame. The VA also sometimes subtracts other types of benefits, such as pension funds, from disability benefits, which makes the back pay calculations more challenging.
How Much Back Pay Will I Receive?
Once you determine your effective date, you can calculate roughly how much to expect in back pay. For 2022, the monthly disability compensation rates are:
|Disability Rating||Monthly Payment|
These amounts increase with each dependent. If the VA owes you back pay from previous years, you will have to consult their historical compensation tables.
Haven’t Received Your Back Pay? Contact a Veterans Disability Attorney for Help
If the 15-day window has come and gone and your back pay check has not arrived, a Gerling Law VA disability lawyer can assist you in obtaining your benefits. We also have attorneys available to walk you through the appeal process if you believe the VA assigned the wrong effective date. The sooner you address any errors, the better. Don’t rely on an online VA compensation back pay calculator to determine how much should be coming to you; instead, consult an experienced veterans disability benefits attorney to analyze your claim.
Gerling Law advises veterans all over the country. Our firm built its reputation by recovering over $500 million for injured clients, and we apply the same tenacity to supporting those who honorably served our country. You deserve to be represented by lawyers rated at the top of their field by their peers and clients. We are available 24/7 because we put our clients first. Contact us today for a free consultation.