How Does VA Disability Back Pay Work?
VA disability back pay amounts depend on the effective dates. Which only increases when there is a Veterans Administration disability case backlog. The 2017 VA appeal system reforms have significantly reduced the Veterans Administration disability case backlog.
In September 2022, almost 150,000 disability claims were backlogged, meaning they were pending at the VA for more than four months. This includes claims that are awaiting further development. But does not include claims that the VA has decided and the claimant is appealing. As burn pit-related claims spurred by the recently passed PACT Act and other claims continue to roll in, the backlog is likely to increase as the VA continues to be understaffed.
Delayed claims are frustrating for veterans who lack the income necessary to get medical care. This can lead to financial concerns and other stress. The good news is that disability benefits can be retroactive to the original filing date in some cases. As a result, when the VA finally approves a claim, the VA could entitle disabled veterans to compensation for the future and for the time the veteran was waiting for the VA to approve the claim.
Monthly cash is just the tip of the iceberg, at least in many cases. VA disability benefits also include free medical care at any VA medical facility. Especially if the veteran has a serious toxic exposure-related or other medical condition, the treatment benefits could be worth much more than the monthly cash. A VA disability attorney fights for the cash and non-cash benefits veterans need and deserve. Only an attorney knows all the complex rules and knows how to leverage these rules in your favor.
VA Disability Back Pay And Effective Dates
Put simply, your disability “effective date” is the date your disability began for purposes of determining when compensation should begin. The VA often sets the effective date as the date the veteran applied for compensation. In fact, the VA directs claims examiners to set the effective date as the date the veteran filed the claim. Or the date the disability began, whichever date comes later.
Veterans who apply for disability compensation within one year of discharge can get their effective date set as their date of discharge.
The Supreme Court recently considered the complexity of this issue. In that case, the veteran developed a mental disorder the year before he was discharged from the military. He applied for compensation for this disorder almost 30 years later. VA rules say that because he did not apply for benefits within one year of discharge, his effective date is the date he filed his claim, not the date of discharge. The veteran is arguing an exception should be made if extraordinary circumstances prevent the veteran from filing a claim earlier, namely, severe mental impairment. The outcome of this case (which will likely be released in the summer of 2023) is worth, at least in this veteran’s situation, 30 years of compensation.
Determining Effective Dates
Determining the effective date for a presumptive service connection issue is calculated similarly. For Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) claims, meaning compensation for a surviving family member of a deceased, disabled veteran, the calculation is also similar: the effective date is the first day of the month the veteran is presumed to have died if the relative files the DIC claim within one year — otherwise, the effective date is the date the claim is filed.
One situation in which veterans become entitled to substantial backpay is when a court finds a “clear and unmistakable error,” commonly called CUE, in a previous decision denying benefits. CUE claims are difficult to win, but the payout can be worth the arduous appeals process if the veteran succeeds. Effective dates of a successful CUE claim are the date it would have been if the VA hadn’t made a mistake. In some cases, this can be decades.
Rating and Staging Issues
The VA typically rates disabilities at the level of severity on the effective date. Say a veteran submits a claim for an increased rating due to a worsening medical condition. And the VA has already deemed the condition as service-connected. If the evidence shows a condition worsened before the submission of the increased rating claim. Such as the results of a compensation and pension medical examination. The effective date of that claim should be when medical evidence reflects that worsening.
If evidence suggests a veteran’s condition has improved, VA may propose a rating reduction. Laws require the VA to notify veterans or their VA disability attorneys of proposed reductions. The effective date of a rating reduction will either be the date evidence shows material improvement, such as results from a C&P exam, or the date of the reduction decision.
If a disability worsens during an appeal, VA assigns a “staged” rating. The VA looks at how the severity of the veteran’s condition has changed over time when determining back pay.
Since the claims and appeals process can last for years. Staged ratings can make calculating years of back pay more difficult, as the veteran’s rating(s) may have changed over time. For example, suppose a veteran’s condition worsened while the VA was deciding his or her claim. In that case, they will receive back pay depending on the severity of the condition year over year.
Reach Out to Dedicated Attorneys
An attorney is a valuable partner in all phases of a disability claim. For a free consultation with an experienced veterans disability lawyer, contact Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact box on our website. We are here to represent veterans nationwide.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship.