The VA owes back pay to veterans who file for disability benefits or file a benefits appeal and wait months or even years for it to be approved. This post explains how back pay works, what you must know to get the amount you’re owed, and why you may want an attorney to help you navigate the process.
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In this article about VA back pay checks:
It’s refreshing when the government owes you money and not vice versa. But ensuring you receive all the back pay you’re owed for service-related disabilities can be challenging. Perhaps the most complicated part of the process is determining when the VA should have begun paying you and, therefore, how much they owe. This post explains more.
What is back pay, and who is eligible for it?
Back pay is the money the VA owes a veteran from when their entitlement to benefits began until the veteran begins receiving benefit compensation. The date of entitlement to benefits is known as the effective date, and it is typically the date the VA received a veteran’s claim.
VA-certified disability benefits lawyer Krystal Lechner said the effective date is a critical component of back pay.
“This date is often regarded as one of the most important parts of a veteran’s claim because it impacts the total compensation,” she said.
Because the process to approve benefits is lengthy, the back pay amount is often large. The longer the claim is pending, the more the VA owes you once it is approved.
So, the VA owes the difference between the amount they were paid (if any) and should have received.
Any veteran who files a claim and receives a favorable decision, either originally or through appeal, is likely owed back pay.
What is my effective date?
Your effective date is critical because it tells the VA how much time has passed since you became eligible for benefits. Typically, the effective date is when you filed a claim for disability benefits. It also can be the latest of either the date you filed a claim or the date a service-connected injury or eligibility otherwise arose.
“Typically, the date the VA receives the claim is the date that the claim is filed,” Lechner said. “However, determining the date the VA receives the claim is not always straightforward, and many factors can affect it.”
The date entitlement arose also is a confusing and nuanced measure.
“The date entitlement arose is the date on which the facts in the case demonstrate that the entitling criteria are met,” Lechner said. “This takes into consideration when the disability first manifested. Meaning, you can’t be granted benefits before the date that your disability began.”
So, for example, if you filed a claim for headaches in January 2022 but didn’t start having symptoms of a headache until June 2022. You can’t be awarded benefits before June 2022 when you first had the disability and started having the symptoms.
“A common mistake that the VA makes here is that they equate disability with diagnosis,” Lechner said. “However, the law is clear. The existence of symptoms indicates a disability, not just the diagnosis.”
Another factor is the date law or regulation authorized entitlement to benefits. Lechner said you can’t be granted benefits before the date that the law recognizes the disability.
How the VA calculates back pay
How much back pay you’ll receive depends on your specific situation.
Factors that affect back pay amount include:
- The veteran’s disability rating
- The effective date of the veteran’s claim
- How many dependents the veteran has
- Whether the veteran is married and whether their partner also receives assistance
- How much the VA paid the veteran while a decision was being appealed
Let’s look at an example: (click the arrows on the left and right to change to the previous or next image)
How did the VA arrive at that amount?
|Decision Date||Combined Rating||Compensation|
|June 1, 2019||50%||$44,750.24 |
(what he received)
|Nov. 1, 2022||70%||$70,676.59 |
(what he should have received)
You can enter your specific information into our back pay calculator to get a better idea of how much the VA may owe you.
How effective dates affect the amount of back pay
“Being assigned the wrong effective date for the grant of a disability or increase of an existing claim can result in months or years of lost benefits,” she said. “The bottom line is that it’s important to preserve your effective date by properly and timely appealing your existing claims.”
Some veterans have successfully appealed for earlier effective dates. Common situations include appealing claims the VA previously dismissed or revisiting a pending claim the veteran may have forgotten. In those cases, the effective date could become when the earliest claim was filed.
An incorrect effective date can result in months or years of lost benefits, which can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. So, you want to ensure the VA uses the correct effective date for you.
When will I get my back pay?
VA disability back pay typically comes in a single payment. The VA should issue the payment shortly after finalizing a decision. If you have any issues with your payment or don’t receive one, call the Veterans Help Line at 800-827-1000 (TTY: 711). The office is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET Monday through Friday.
Back pay and attorney fees
Some veterans need help with the back pay process. Whether they think their effective date is incorrect or just want to make sure they get everything coming to them, it can be a good idea to hire an attorney. When deciding whether to hire a lawyer or VSO, it’s essential to consider the benefits of each and how they can help you navigate the process.
Some veterans may hesitate to hire a lawyer because they don’t want to pay fees. But VA disability lawyers, like Woods and Woods, are only paid a set percentage of the veteran’s back pay.
“They did good by me. I am sick, and the VA was stalling. They got me 100% permanent and total.“
Woods and Woods can help you get the back pay you deserve
Whether your back pay is from an initial claim or an appeal, Woods and Woods is here to help you navigate the process. We want to help ensure your effective date is accurate, and that you get all of the back pay you deserve as quickly as possible. And you only pay us if we win your case.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The VA uses the date a veteran filed for benefits and the claim approval date to determine back pay, among other factors. Use our back pay calculator to know more of what to expect.
Yes, the VA typically pays back pay in a lump sum issued within 15 days of finalizing a veteran’s claim.