Filing with the VA for veterans’ disability benefits is usually a time-consuming process. Sometimes years can go by from the time of initial filing to when your case is settled. It may include requests for additional information, denial of benefits, appeals, and another review before you are granted a disability rating. Because the process can be quite cumbersome, time-consuming, and stressful, especially for a person struggling with a disability, veterans get the best and fastest resolution of their claims with the help of an experienced VA attorney.
Once you’re granted disability, you will begin to receive monthly installments. But what about all the time you waited? Fortunately, the award is retroactive and you will receive a lump sum of benefits when your benefits are awarded. This back pay is dated from the time of your original filing. For example, if you received a disability rating of 50% three years after you initially filed your claim, you will receive a lump sum of three years worth of disability payments at a 50% level.
Exceptions to the Filing Start Date
There are a few limited situations in which your effective start date is different from your initial file date. If you initially filed for disability but did not complete the process within 365 days, that filing expires and you will have to start over. The filing that you complete on time will be the start date, not the filing that expired.
If you apply for disability before or within 365 days of leaving military service with an honorable discharge and you have medical proof of the disability prior to filing, your effective start date may be earlier than your file date. For instance, if you left the service in December 2020 and filed for disability in January 2021, but you were medically diagnosed with a service-related disability in September 2020 (while still serving), your effective date will be September 2020, not January 2021.
Adjusting Back Pay
Sometimes adjustments need to be made to back pay, for instance, if your condition worsens – or improves – while you are waiting. This is called staged ratings. They are complicated and sometimes need to be appealed for a more favorable ruling.
If, for instance, you file for disability for a back injury in 2013 and your medical examination at the time would have awarded a 20% rating, but by the time you were awarded benefits you received another medical examination indicating your condition has worsened and you are now at a 50% rating, you could receive back pay for a portion of the time at 20%, then at 50% from the time that the medical examination indicated a worsened condition. If during this time you were also hospitalized for your back pain for at least 21 days, such as for an operation and recovery, you would receive 100% disability for the period of time you were hospitalized.
Any cost of living adjustments that took place from the time you filed your claim to the time you’re awarded benefits also should be factored into your back pay.
Getting What You Deserve
Retroactive payments can be quite substantial since years often go by between the filing and the award of benefits. Back pay adjustments can further complicate the process. It is unfortunate that a disabled veteran has to fight so long and hard to receive compensation for injuries sustained while defending our country.
Being disabled veterans ourselves and having gone through the process, we are committed to making sure your progress through the VA is as quick as possible. We will leave no stone unturned to make sure your back pay is maximized. Contact us at Robert B. Goss, the Veterans Attorney, from anywhere in the world at 877-425-4VET (4838). We are here to help our U.S. military veterans receive the benefits they deserve.