VA Disability Back Pay: What You Should Know
VA disability back pay is an accumulation of benefits that the Veterans Administration may owe to a veteran. Or the accumulation of benefits between the effective date of a claim and when the claim is actually approved. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, the Veterans Administration was on track to erase its case backlog, largely due to the 2017 VA appeals reforms. Then, in March 2020, everything changed. Offices closed and the VA disability system offered limited services. Additionally, medical and service records stored offsite suddenly became unavailable, so the delay increased even more.
This changed what we can expect to happen with VA disability “back pay.” Back pay is the money a veteran receives on a claim for the time period between the “effective” date, or the date he or she begins to be compensated for a disability, and when the claim is fully processed and finalized. For example, if a veteran files a claim in November 2020, and the claim is fully adjudicated and finalized in May 2021, the veteran will receive the disability benefits for the time period November 2020 – May 2021 in a lump sum when his or her claim is finalized and begins to be paid out.
Long Wait Times
As late as 2019, it looked like back pay issues might become a thing of the past because long wait times were decreasing. But that is not true today. Even an expedited appeal could take several months or even longer to wind through the system. As a result, a significant amount of back pay could be owed to veterans successful in their claims.
Calculating the disability back pay date is often complex, especially in TDIU and other such claims. Usually, the VA applies the date which leads to the lowest award of disability back pay. A VA disability attorney, on the other hand, is committed to maximum benefits for disabled Veterans. Since disability back pay could be tens of thousands of dollars in some cases, setting the proper effective date is an important step toward achieving this goal.
Back Pay Time Period
There is more than one way to calculate the back pay time period. The most common is the time period between the effective date and the date the claim is finalized. Another way to receive back pay is to file a claim for an earlier effective date than what you first received. For example, if the VA determines a veteran should be compensated for a disability beginning November 2020, but the veteran can later show the disability began in January of 2020, then the veteran will be entitled to back pay for the period January – November 2020.
Usually, a disability claim’s effective date is the date the VA received the claim or the date the claim arose. Different rules apply for successful CUE (clear and unmistakable error) appeals and recently discharged Veterans who almost immediately file disability claims.
TDIU And Effective Dates
The aforementioned TDIU (total disability due to individual unemployability) claims merit closer attention as well. For many Veterans, filing a disability claim is a last resort. They try to work as long as possible, even though they are legally disabled. In these situations, an earlier effective date may be available. For example, a veteran could file a TDIU claim in 2022 and a doctor could determine that he or she became disabled in 2010.
However, for the most part, the VA does not consider the date of injury or other onset of disability as the effective date for Veterans who apply for disability compensation after they have been discharged. A similar myth holds that the VA considers the discharge date as the claim’s effective date. Usually, the VA only backdates benefits to the discharge date for Veterans who file claims within a year of their military discharge.
Changed Rating Date
Frequently, disabilities are degenerative. They get worse over time. Furthermore, disabilities sometimes spread. For example, a veteran’s knee might be so bad from a service-related injury that he or she is immobile and becomes obese. In these cases, the effective date is the date the C&P (compensation and pension) or IME (independent medical examination) doctor believes the disability got worse or spread. If these two opinions conflict, the veteran has the burden of proof to establish an earlier effective date.
Sometimes, disabilities worsen or spread while the case is active and being appealed. In these situations, the VA uses staged ratings. Essentially, the VA examines changes in the Veteran’s condition over time in order to determine back pay. Staged ratings often make calculating years of back pay difficult, because the veteran’s rating(s) have changed through time.
The opposite could happen as well. If the Veteran’s condition materially improves, the VA usually asks for a rating reduction. The effective date for reduced benefits is the medically determined change date or a reduction decision date.
Count on Experienced 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 the 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.