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December 22, 2019

How the VA Handles Back Pay

Last updated on March 24, 2021

So you’ve had your claim approved but it’s been some time since you first filed for your disability benefits. The question now is, “How the VA handles back pay?” And how far back will it go?

You had your claim accepted but it has been some time since you first filed for your disability benefits. The question now is, do you get back pay? And how far back will it go?

Yes, you will receive back pay determined by the length of time it took to process your claim from initial filing to decision. What and when to expect from that back pay, however, depends on a number of factors.

Knowing what to expect when filing your VA claim will help with expectations going forward.

Insider tip – make sure your intent to file is up to date every year to ensure you are getting the most out of your claim!

The Effective Date of Back Pay

When the VA approves a claim to give you compensation benefits they will then determine an effective date. This is the starting date they will use to determine how much money they currently owe you.

Usually, the effective date is determined to be the day they received your claim or the day you were granted entitlement. Very rarely will the VA use a date outside of these criteria. In cases where an effective date is granted earlier, it is because a request was granted that determines a clear and unmistakable error. 

>>>>>> Click here to read about how to file for a Clear and Unmistakable Error <<<<<<

If you filed for your claim within a year of your discharge from service, you may receive benefits from the date of your discharge. 

A Common Mistake

Often it is believed that the VA will grant back pay all the way to the date of the veteran’s injury or the event to which the disability is considered to have begun. This is a common misconception. The VA will not consider these to be effective dates in any circumstance. 

While it is critical that you do have as much evidence surrounding the injury as possible, the VA will not move your back pay to this date.

Calculating Back Pay

Multiple factors are considered when determining how much back pay you will receive, including what changes have occurred in your life from the effective date until the date of the rating decision. The main things taken into consideration are:

  • Did you have a previous disability rating?
  • Did the number of dependents in your household change?
  • How far back is the determined effective date?

If you had already been receiving benefits from a previous rating, the difference between what you were already paid and your new rating would need to be determined. Having a child, your child transitioning into adulthood, getting married or divorced are also factors that will have to be adjusted for. 

After opening your intent to file, it is critical that you understand when your back pay will be calculated from. The VA does not award partial months for backpay, so an effective date of 9/10/19 means pay starts Oct 1, 2019, going forward. This is why it’s crucial to keep a current intent to file, even if you don’t know when you’ll file or re-file.

Lastly, the effective date might have occurred in a different year, which means that the yearly cost of living adjustment will have to be calculated into the back pay. 

All of these adjustments can lead up to hundreds of extra dollars disbursed to you, so make sure they consider everything. This is why it is important that you keep your own records in order to keep the VA accountable should they make any mistakes. 

To learn more about back pay from the VA, click HERE.

Back Pay for Law Changes

Occasionally Congress passes a law governing VA Disability, which can affect the benefits veterans are set to receive. When this happens Congress will determine an effective date based on the law in question. When this happens, all qualifying veterans will receive back pay for the difference in their increased benefits from the time of the effective date until the current day

What do I do if I haven’t received my decision yet?

First, congrats on getting your VA claim submitted! This is a huge milestone.

Now you’re facing what many people would call this the worst part of the process. The waiting. 

No worries, once you get that decision rating you will be able to see the fruit of your labor.

You can track the status of your decision on the VA’s website or by calling 800-827-1000. Once you get your decision letter, you will be able to see everything that the VA has awarded to you and what your final compensation will be. 

When Can You Expect to Receive Your Back Pay?

This is yet another issue that can vary depending on a number of factors. You will be awarded your back pay as soon as your claim is approved. 

Often the VA will issue your back pay quickly, usually within a matter of months from the approval of your claim. Sometimes, however, there are unexpected delays. 

Other delays can occur if you file an appeal. Remember, the VA has been dealing with an enormous backlog of claims for many years now, so the smallest changes can affect the disbursement of your money. 

If you have not received your back pay and it’s been over two weeks, contact the VA at 800-827-1000

How do I update my information through the VA?

If you have recently moved, gotten married, or have other life events which need to be updated with the VA, please do so through one of three options:


Contacting your VA regional office 


The VA has done a fair job of making sure veterans get any compensation benefits they may have missed out on because of a long claims process. However, these things can take time. 

Rest assured, as long as you have an approved claim you are entitled to receive back pay and the VA does hold to its obligation to get it to you.

Have more questions on back pay and what that means for your claim? Check out our proven systems here. Or subscribe to our YouTube channel for daily videos over all things VA Claims.


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About the Author

About VA Claims Insider

VA Claims insider is an education-based coaching/consulting company. We’re here for disabled veterans exploring eligibility for increased VA disability benefits and who wish to learn more about that process. We also connect veterans with independent medical professionals in our referral network for medical examinations, disability evaluations, and credible independent medical opinions and nexus statements (medical nexus letters) for a wide range of disability conditions.

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