What is VA disability back pay and why should veterans be well-read on the subject? The simplest answer is that not knowing could wind up depriving you of funds you are entitled to by law.
Many veterans don’t have a problem collecting VA disability pay and/or any back disability pay they may be entitled to. But if there is a problem and a veteran isn’t awarded the back pay they deserve in the appropriate circumstances, knowing what you are supposed to get is the first step toward correcting the problem.
How VA Disability Back Pay Works
When military members and veterans file compensation claims for service-connected medical issues, there can be a delay between the VA investigation and decision making on the claim and the eligibility date of compensation.
This delay is made up with VA Disability Back Pay. This pay essentially makes up the amounts that would have come to the veteran if payments had started immediately. The longer the VA takes to decide, the more back pay you could have coming.
That said, much depends on when you file your claim-that is an extremely important factor to consider, which we’ll address below.
Who Is Eligible For VA Disability Back Pay?
A veteran’s eligibility to get VA Disability Back Pay is determined according to two basic scenarios.
In cases where the veteran submits a VA disability claim up to one year after retiring or separating from military service, the date of separation or the date of retirement would be the date used to start VA Disability Back Pay eligibility.
In cases where the VA claim is submitted later than one year after military retirement or separation, the back pay date is the date when the VA received the claim. This means there is high potential for lost pay that would otherwise be offered to the service member if the claim is not submitted within a year of separation or retirement.
That is a very important detail to note.
An Exception To The Rule
There is one exception. In cases where Congress approves measures that change the laws governing VA Disability Pay. When those laws change, the amount of VA Disability Payments will change also. If the amount of pay increases, VA Disability Back Pay may be applicable and the veterans affected would see that back pay based on how the legislation is worded.
For example, if the increase in pay is listed in the law as being effective on a certain date, the back pay would be the difference between the previous rate of pay and the new rate of pay, prorated from the effective date of the legislation to the present day.
No Action By The Veteran Required
In such cases there is nothing the veteran needs to do in order to receive the back pay, it will be generated automatically and no signups would be required.
Two Types Of VA Disability Ratings
When the Department of Veterans Affairs investigates your claim, it may determine that there is a “direct service connection” and proceed as appropriate. VA guidelines in this area include the following information for the veteran:
“The effective date for a disability that was caused—or made worse—by military service is whichever of these comes later:
- The date we get your claim, or
- The date you first got your illness or injury (also known as the date your entitlement arose)
In cases where the VA gets a veteran’s claim within a year of leaving the military, “the effective date can be as early as the day following separation”.
The other type of VA disability claim may fall under a presumptive service connection. VA rules in this area state that in many cases, if the VA assumes your condition is related to military service and the agency gets a medical claim for conditions that fall into the presumptive category “within one year of your separation from active service—then the effective date is the date you first got your illness or injury.”
In situations where the VA gets the claim more than a year after leaving the service, ”the effective date is the date we got your claim or when you first got your illness or injury—whichever is later”.
What A Presumptive Condition Is In The Eyes Of The VA
The VA official site describes a presumptive condition as one that has been “diagnosed by a doctor and that we consider to be related to your military service because of a specific aspect of that service.” This can include:
- A chronic (long-lasting) illness appearing within one year after discharge OR
- Medical problems caused by “contact with contaminants (toxic chemicals) or other hazardous materials” OR
- Illnesses caused by time spent as a prisoner of war.
The VA Presumptive Service Connection Rule
The Department of Veterans Affairs is on record stating that in most cases, when the VA is convinced your medical issue or condition is related to military service, “known as a presumptive service connection” and the agency receives the veteran’s claim within a year of separation from military service, the effective date of the claim is the date “you first got your illness or injury.”
In cases where the claim arrives to the VA more than a year after leaving active service, “the effective date is the date we got your claim or when you first got your illness or injury—whichever is later.”
This policy applies specifically to medical issues with presumptive service connections. Examples of that may include exposure to Agent Orange, traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, or other conditions depending on circumstances. All conditions are evaluated individually.
Important VA Terminology You Need To Understand About VA Disability Back Pay
The potential for missing out on pay a veteran would otherwise have coming via VA Disability Back Pay (assuming the veteran qualifies) is high and it is very important to fully understand the details. There are some terms and definitions to keep in mind:
Claim date: This usually refers to the date the VA received the veteran’s medical claim
Diagnosis date: The date you received the actual diagnosis of your condition (not the date of evaluation for that condition).
Retirement Date: The date you are legally out of the military as a retiree, and officially a civilian. Note that this date is after any terminal leave, permissive TDY for house hunting, etc.
Separation Date: The date you are no longer legally obligated to perform active military service. This is the date you are effectively considered a civilian and is after any terminal leave, permissive TDY, etc.
Effective date: The start date the VA uses to determine when VA compensation payments should begin, “based on the veteran’s claim or the date when the veteran is diagnosed with the condition to be compensated.”
VA Rating Reduction: A VA disability rating can be reduced if the veteran’s service-connected medical issues improve after leaving military service. This is generally done via a medical review process and is not arbitrarily determined without reviewing the veteran’s condition.
VA Staged Claim: In some cases, a veteran’s condition may get worse during the review process. In these circumstances the veteran will have her condition reviewed for a staged rating which may result in a staggered amount of compensation based on the severity of the condition or how severe it becomes over time. It is possible to get retroactive or VA back pay increased in these cases related to the severity year to year when justified.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
|How to Apply for Disability Pay||How To Win A VA Disability Claim|
|VA Disability Rates||What To Do After Winning A VA Claim|
|Disability Compensation||Veteran Claims & Class Action Against VA|