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The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) often owes retroactive awards for veterans disability claims when there is a long period of time between a veteran’s effective date and approval date.

What Is a Retroactive Award?

The application process for VA disability benefits is known for its legendary backlog and long waits for approval. Veterans can often wait months or even years between the date they apply for VA benefits and when they receive notification of a grant from the VA.

To compensate for the months or years veterans must go without compensation, the VA grants retroactive awards.

Generally, you are eligible for back pay from the first day of the month following your “effective date” for benefits. In most cases, your effective date is when the VA received your disability application. In certain situations, however, you might qualify for retroactive benefits that go even further back.

Effective Date vs. Application Date

If you ultimately receive a grant for veterans disability benefits, you should start receiving your monthly disability check the month following your approval. But what about all the months that elapsed between when you applied and when you received notification of your grant?

The VA considers applicants who have received benefit grants eligible for benefits starting the date the VA received their application.  So, in a perfect world, if you mailed your application on January 13th, the VA received it on January 16th, and approved it on January 30th, you would begin receiving benefits in February (assuming the VA approved your application).

In reality, the VA does not issue a grant or denial right away. Instead, your application enters a queue, and there are often hundreds or even thousands of other applicants ahead of you.

Let’s assume the VA does not approve your application, which it received in January, until November of the same year. In this case, you should start receiving regular benefits in December. You would also be eligible for back pay to February, since that is when you would have started receiving benefits had there been no wait.

Is it Possible to Receive Retroactive Benefits for the Time Before Application?

Not everyone applies for benefits as soon as they receive their diagnosis. And unfortunately, you likely are not eligible to receive benefits for the time before you submitted your application.

In a few circumstances, though, you can receive retroactive benefits further back than the date of your claim. For instance:

Recently Discharged Servicemen

If you are a recently discharged veteran and apply for benefits within a year of your discharge date, your effective date would be the day after you left the service. If you left January 2nd, your effective date would be January 3rd.

Conditions Related to Agent Orange Exposure

The rules regarding retroactive benefits for medical conditions related to Agent Orange exposure are complicated and have changed several times. Speak with a veterans advocate at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD for more information about when your effective date might be.

The VA Made an Error

If the VA makes a “clear and unmistakable” error in denying your case, which it later approves, your effective date could potentially be the date the VA received your original application. However, “clear and unmistakable” errors are very unusual and difficult to prove.

The legal team at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD may be able to help you with any of these situations. We have decades of experience successfully representing disabled veterans before the VA, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

Have Additional Questions? Call 800-544-9144 for a Free Consultation.

We know that the process to receive VA disability benefits can be confusing, frustrating, and the decisions often seem arbitrary. If you are a disabled veteran who feels you are not getting the benefits you deserve from the VA, we can help.

Our skilled legal team has successfully fought on behalf of many veterans, and we can put our experience to work for you. You served our country, and we believe you deserve just compensation for your sacrifices. It is our mission to make sure that happens. Let us fight for you.

Call today for a free consultation: 800-544-9144.


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  • My case was initially rejected by the VA but with the thorough review by CC&K , the VA agreed with the case that CC&K made and awarded my initial rating of 30% retroactive to 1975. Read More » Edward M., September 2017
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  • I thought I could go it alone. I filed several disability claims through the VA only to be denied over and over again. I knew I needed help. I found that help with the law firm of Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick. They filed for me and won. Read More » Gene W., July 2017
  • I'm so glad we sought the help of CCK on my husband's VA claim. We had been going back and forth with the VA for 5 years on his claim without seeing any progress. Then we found CCK and the case was resolved in about a year! Read More » Sarah C., June 2017
  • I was fighting for my VA disability compensation for 10 years. I was ready to give up and then CCK took my case. I immediately felt at ease because they kept me informed every step of the way and there was so much less stress for me. Read More » Raul B., March 2017
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