Retroactive awards from the VA are the benefits paid to Veterans when excessive time exists between a claim’s effective date and approval date.
Unfortunately, it is not unusual for there to be significant time between the date the Veteran applies for benefits and the date the VA approves the claim. Months and sometimes years can go by, especially if the application has been in the appeal process.
That’s because there are thousands of applications waiting in a queue, vying for attention.
When things go smoothly with the claim acceptance approval process, the VA accepts approves the claim in a timely fashion. You will start receiving benefits on the first day of the month following your “effective date.”
What does ‘Effective Date’ Mean?
When the VA accepts approves a claim, they assign an ‘effective date’ or starting date based on the type of benefit requested and the nature of the petition itself. Turns out, this is a complex determination process, so we can’t cover it fully here. However, we recently did a blog called Making Sense of Effective Dates that explains it. (This only works if we run that blog before this one.)
Imagine you submitted your application for a Direct Service-Connected disability on January 2, and the VA receives it on January 5. In this illustration, the VA approves the claim on January 15. You would start receiving your benefits in February.
We don’t often see claims accepted approved in 10 days, but we occasionally do. More often, the reverse happens. The VA may take months, even years, before approving your petition.
Now let’s say you submit your application on January 2, and it isn’t approved until later in December. You will start receiving your benefits in January, a year after you filed your claim. This is a long time, so retroactive pay kicks in.
You would be eligible for retroactive pay back to the date you filed your claim.
When can you get paid for a time before you file?
In some cases, such as making an application for a direct service connection within 1 year of separation, the VA may pay you from the day after you were discharged from the military. This means you can receive retroactive benefits earlier than the date you submitted your claim.
In other claims filed during this first year after discharge, the VA will pay you from the date you first received your diagnosis of illness or injury. This date occurs before you have anything to file, so it also allows you compensation before the VA receives your claim.
1) Recently Discharged
If you apply for benefits within one year of discharge, the effective date would be the day after separation, such as in the illustration above. For example, if you were discharged on August 15, your effective date would be August 16.
2) Exposure to Agent Orange
The Rules around retroactive pay for disabilities related to Agent Orange exposure are complex. However, almost a decade ago, the VA added three more conditions for which Agent Orange has been linked.
Those conditions were ischemic heart disease, hairy cell leukemia along with other chronic B-cell leukemias, and Parkinson’s disease. They may authorize up to one year of retroactive benefits if a Veteran submits a diagnosis for one of these ‘new’ conditions since August 31, 2010, the date of the regulatory change.
According to the VA, Agent Orange exposure may have occurred:
- In Vietnam – January 9, 1962, to May 7, 1975
- In Vietnam, Korea, in or near the DMZ – September 1, 1967, to August 31, 1971
- On U.S. Navy & Coast Guard ships or other vessels near Vietnam or in its inland waterways – January 9, 1962, to May 7, 1975
- On Thailand military bases – January 9, 1962, to May 7, 1975
- On C-123 airplanes – January 9, 1962, to May 7, 1975
- During testing or storage areas outside Vietnam, including in the U.S. – 1944 to a date yet to be determined
3) VA Made a Mistake
The VA can make mistakes when denying a case. If the error is “clear and unmistakable,’ your effective date could become the date the VA received your initial application. If that happens, you would be eligible for retroactive pay back to the original claim date or earlier, such as the date of diagnosis for presumptive exposure situations.
This is rare. Plus, these types of VA mistakes can be challenging to prove.
We’re Here to Help
We know that not everything is black and white. If you have questions and you want real answers from real Veterans who have been through the same, please reach out to us. Strategic Veteran is a free resource for all Veterans – give us a call today at 800-761-9004.