If you served in the military and suffered a disability as a result of your service, you may be entitled to benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides disability benefits veterans who have a current illness or injury that either began or was made worse during their service. A veteran must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable to be eligible for VA disability benefits.
These benefits for disabled veterans are paid based on a rating schedule, increasing as the level of disability increases. Each year, hundreds of thousands of veterans apply for benefits that require a ratings decision. For this reason, there is typically a substantial backlog of claims awaiting a decision; as of June 2019, the VA had a backlog of 72,821 claims awaiting a ratings decision.
Given this backlog, it takes an average of 109 days to receive a decision on a VA disability benefits claim. However, depending on the type of claim that you filed, the number of injuries or disabilities filed, and how long it takes the VA to collect the evidence needed to evaluate the claim, it may take substantially longer.
If you are awarded benefits, then the VA will assign an “effective date” to your claim. You will then be paid back pay based on that effective date. Read on to learn more about effective dates and other factors that affect your VA disability back pay.
Understanding Effective Dates
An effective date is the start date that the VA uses to begin payments. There are two basic ways that the VA sets an effective date: when it received a veteran’s claim, or the date that a veteran was diagnosed with the condition that they are claiming (i.e., when the entitlement arose). Generally, the VA will assign the later of these two dates to a claim.
There are some cases where the VA will grant an earlier effective date. For example, recently-discharged service members who apply within a year of leaving active service may receive an earlier effective date. A veteran may also challenge a determination of an effective date, requesting a revision based on a clear and unmistakable error, which may result in an earlier effective date than they would otherwise receive.
Importantly, unless you apply for VA disability benefits within a year of separation from active service, the VA will not grant benefits to the date of discharge. The VA also does not consider the date that a veteran received an injury or illness to be an effective date for purposes of disability benefits. Instead, it looks to the day that the entitlement arose — when a veteran was diagnosed with the condition that they are claiming as a disability.
How Much Back Pay Will I Get?
The amount of back pay that you will receive after being granted disability benefits from the VA will depend on two factors: your effective date and disability rating. The earlier the effective date and the higher the disability rating, the more back pay the VA will owe you.
The VA uses a compensation rate table to determine pay based on a veteran’s disability rating. If a veteran is owed back pay over a period of years, the VA will utilize its historical compensation rate tables to determine the appropriate pay for each year. For example, a single veteran with no kids and a 40% disability rating would receive $600.90 per month in 2017 and $589.12 in 2016.
While veterans cannot hire a lawyer at the initial application stage, you can hire a New Jersey disability benefits attorney to challenge a denial, ratings decision, or even the assignment of an incorrect effective date. Because these issues can significantly impact your monthly benefits amount as well as your back pay, it is important to ensure the accuracy of these decisions.
Work with a New Jersey Disability Benefits Attorney
After serving your country honorably, you are entitled to benefits for any illnesses or injuries that you may have suffered or that may have become worse as a result of your service. While the government offers benefits to veterans, it can be difficult and confusing to navigate the process — and may feel impossible to get a fair decision on your claim. A New Jersey disability benefits attorney can help.
Bross & Frankel believes that the brave men and women who selflessly serve our nation deserve the best. We offer free consultations for all veterans, and fight tirelessly for their rights to disability benefits if they decide to hire us. If you have a disability related to your military service, contact our office today at 856-795-8880, or reach out online.