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How VA Disability Back Pay and Effective Dates Work

Back Pay (Retroactive Benefits): Back pay, or retroactive benefits, is a lump sum payment that represents the benefits that have accrued from the effective date of the granted claim. Once the VA approves a claim, the veteran receives this amount in a lump sum.

Effective Date: The effective date is the date from which the VA starts calculating payments. It is crucial because it determines the amount of back pay you will receive. The VA typically determines the effective date based on:

  • Date the VA Received the Claim: The date when the VA formally receives your claim.

    • According to 38 CFR § 3.400 (General Rule on Effective Dates), the effective date for compensation claims is generally the date of receipt of the claim or the date entitlement arose, whichever is later.

  • Date the Entitlement Arose: The date the veteran was diagnosed with the condition claimed as a disability.

    • The VA Manual M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, Chapter 2, Section C provides guidance on determining when entitlement arose. This is generally when the condition is diagnosed or evidence supports the claim.

Intent to File: An intent to file allows the veteran to establish an earlier effective date for back pay. Here’s how it works: This rule is outlined in 38 CFR § 3.155 (How to file a claim), which allows a veteran to submit a written intent to file, giving them up to one year to gather evidence and submit the formal claim.

  • Establishing the Effective Date: The intent to file establishes an effective date up to one year prior to when the veteran files the official claim. If the veteran submits the formal claim within one year of submitting the intent to file, the effective date will be the date of the intent to file. 

  • Gathering Evidence: The one-year period allows the veteran time to gather the necessary medical evidence and prepare the claim properly before officially submitting it.

  • Scope of Intent to File: An intent to file applies only to the conditions included in the VA Form 21-526EZ (Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits). Subsequent claims or conditions will require a new intent to file.

  • Multiple Intent to Files: If a veteran has more than one intent to file, the VA will consider the earliest intent to file as the effective date for the initial conditions claimed. Later intents to file will serve as markers for subsequent claims, as long as they are filed within a year of each intent to file.

How Much Back Pay Will I Get? The amount of back pay depends on two factors:

  • Effective Date: An earlier effective date results in more back pay. If the intent to file establishes an earlier date, this will increase the amount of back pay received.

  • Disability Rating: A higher disability rating translates into a higher monthly payment, which also increases back pay. The VA uses historical compensation rate tables to calculate back pay for previous years, adjusting for inflation. For instance, in 2017, a single veteran with no children and a 40% disability rating received $600.90 monthly, while in 2016, the amount was $589.12.

Important Notes for Veterans:

  • Appeals: If your claim was denied, you must file an appeal within a year to preserve your effective date. Failure to appeal within this period means the decision becomes final, and you lose your effective date and potential back pay.

  • According to M21-1, Part III, Subpart ii, Chapter 2, Section D, appeals must be filed within one year of the VA decision to retain the original effective date.

  • Intent to File: Always file a new intent to file if you need more time to gather evidence for a new claim, ensuring you establish an effective date for the new condition.

  • Multiple Intents to File: The VA will use the earliest intent to file for the original conditions, while subsequent intents will serve as markers for new conditions filed within a year.

  • Supplemental Claims: For new evidence not previously submitted, use VA Form 20-0995 (Decision Review Request: Supplemental Claim). 38 CFR § 3.156 (New and Material Evidence) provides guidelines on supplemental claims and new evidence submission.

The VA Disability Advocates Main Office is Located in Las Vegas, NV. We Represent Veterans throughout the United States. 702-992-4883 

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