How Does VA Service-Connected Disability Back Pay Work?

Tucker Law Group
December 27, 2019

Whether a veteran wins their service-connected compensation on their initial application or after an appeal, they will receive an award of retroactive back pay.

Unfortunately, the entire VA disability process can take a significant amount of time. This leaves disabled veterans waiting for benefits they are eligible to receive. If you win your VA service-connected disability benefit claim, you will likely be eligible to receive back pay. Unfortunately, understanding retroactive compensation is often very confusing.  It starts with understanding the effective date of your benefits.

How Is Back Pay or Retroactive Pay Determined?

You can determine the veteran’s date of eligibility in one of two ways.

  • Within a Year of Separation. If the veteran submitted a disability claim within one year of the date of separation, then the VA uses the date of separation as the date of eligibility.
  • After a Year of Separation. After the one-year period following separation has passed, the rules are different. The VA uses the first day of the month after they receive the claim as the effective date for  back pay eligibility.

It is important to know how long it could take to get VA compensation back pay. There are no time requirements in the law for how fast VA must act.  An initial application to the VA for disability benefits can take weeks or many months for approval. Historically, an appeal could take 5 to 7 years. However, we are seeing a trend in appeals moving through the VA system faster under the new Appeals Modernization law.

The key is when you apply for benefits.  As such, it is important that veterans submit a disability compensation claim as soon as possible following discharge from the military. When you wait until after a year following your discharge, you will lose any back pay owed between your date of separation and the date of application.

As an example, suppose John applies for VA disability benefits nine months after his separation from the military. Since this is within one year, his date of eligibility is his date of separation. Assuming it takes nine more months before John’s disability is approved, he will receive retroactive disability pay for 18 months. If, however, John submits his VA disability application 15 months after discharge, and the VA takes nine months to approve the benefits, John would only receive nine months of retroactive pay.

In other words, John would lose the 15 months he would have received benefits if he had filed within the 12-month period.

VA retroactive pay is typically paid in one lump sum, although it could be paid in payments. Since it can take many months, or years, for approval of VA disability benefits, the retroactive benefits could be significant. We have literally recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars after fighting VA for years for our clients.

VA Retroactive Pay Law Changes

VA disability retroactive pay may also be applicable when Congress changes the laws governing VA service-connected disability compensation. When the ratings change, then the amount the veteran should receive will also change.

While these changes in the law are not common, they do occur. If such a change occurs, the VA will automatically process your retroactive pay.

However, sometimes, this back pay is not easy to obtain. When this situation occurs, you need an experienced VA disability lawyer on your side.

Contact Our VA Disability Lawyers Today

When filing a VA disability claim, it is important to know that the process is long. As such, you may need back pay once you are eligible to collect benefits. To learn more or for help filing an appeal after a claim denial, call an experienced VA disability lawyer at Tucker Law Group today. You can fill out our confidential contact form or call us at (866) 233-5044 for a consultation and to review of your potential case. Our attorneys help veterans with their service-connected disability compensation all across the country.