Veterans regularly call Bergmann & Moore and ask questions about retroactive payments, commonly called “retro” or “back pay.”
The bottom line up front: When the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) sends you a rating decision, you should carefully review it in order to make sure VA set the correct effective date for your disability benefits.
The effective date of your claim is important because it sets the start date of when VA begins paying disability compensation or pension. As a general guideline, the effective date is usually the date a claim was filed.
For example, in most cases, if you filed your claim on January 1, 2017, and VA granted your claim on August 5, 2017, then your effective date would usually be January 1, 2017. VA would be required to pay retroactive benefits for the period between January and August, and then make monthly payments thereafter based on your percentage rating and dependents.
Effective Date Exceptions
However, in other situations, there are complex rules and exceptions for VA effective dates. This is why it is important for you to seek professional assistance if you believe VA made a mistake setting your effective date. Because VA claims processors are sometimes rushed or not well trained, VA often makes errors when setting the effective date.
For more details about VA’s complicated rules for establishing the effective date, please visit VA’s web site.
Example #1: Claims Filed Within One Year of Discharge
If you filed a claim within one year of your discharge from active duty, then VA is supposed to set the effective date as the day after your discharge. Here’s how it should work:
Active duty discharge date: December 31, 1999
Claim filed date: December 15, 2000, within one year of discharge
Correct effective date: January 1, 2000, the day after your discharge
At Bergmann & Moore, we have seen many examples where VA incorrectly set an effective date as December 15, 2000, the date of the Veteran’s claim.
For this example, VA’s incorrect effective date may have deprived the Veteran of earned benefits. If the Veteran was single, had no children, and was rated 100 percent, then VA’s error may have resulted in a shortage of tens of thousands of dollars in earned disability benefits!
If you filed a claim and VA finally granted it more than three years later, then VA is supposed to set the effective date and pay retroactive benefits back to the day of your claim. Here’s how it should work:
Active duty discharge date: May 1, 2012
Claim filed date: July 1, 2014, more than one year after discharge
VA rating decision date: August 1, 2017
Correct effective date: July 1, 2014
Bergmann & Moore often reviews VA rating decisions where VA erroneously set the effective date as VA’s decision date, in this case August 1, 2017. However, VA should have paid the claim with an effective date of July 1, 2014, more three years earlier, because that’s when the Veteran filed the claim.
As a result, VA may have improperly denied a single Veteran without children rated 100 percent up to 36 months of disability compensation amounting to more than $100,000!
Bergmann & Moore in Action
Understanding VA’s complex regulations for establishing accurate effective dates and retroactive payments can be a challenge for Veterans and families. Bergmann & Moore has helped hundreds of Veterans win their retroactive disability benefits because our staff knows the VA claims system well and we are trained to listen and care.
Free Retroactive Benefits Consultation
Bergmann & Moore remains dedicated to helping Veterans obtain the maximum benefits from VA. If you received a VA rating decision and you believe VA set the wrong effective date, then Bergmann & Moore may be able to assist you with this type of claim appeal. Please contact Bergmann & Moore for a FREE consultation.
Agent Orange Exposure
One specific disease, Glioblastoma Multiforme, is a type of malignant brain tumor, often found in veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during service. However, VA has not yet acknowledged that these tumors are due to Agent Orange exposure and therefore they are not on VA’s presumptive list. Sadly, when a veteran passes away from a non-presumptive condition such as Glioblastoma, their surviving spouse is often unable to obtain benefits on their own.
Burn Pit Exposure
Bergmann & Moore recognizes that many veterans from the Gulf War era, Operating Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation New Dawn (OND), and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS) may have been exposed to hazardous materials that were burned as a form of waste management.
The Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) provides Veterans with five options on what to do when you receive a Board denial. In our experience there is only ONE reasonable option—appeal the BVA decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals to Veterans Claims (CAVC).
Dependency and Indemnity Claims
In the event a veteran passes away, their surviving family members may be entitled to benefits from the VA. Most commonly, this would be the Veteran’s surviving spouse. In order to qualify for DIC benefits, the surviving spouse must show that the Veteran died from a condition or illness related to the veteran’s military service. In some cases, veterans may have already been service connected for the condition that caused their death. In other cases, the surviving spouse is required to prove that the cause of death, if not already service-connected, was due to the veteran’s service.
Even veterans who aren’t rated 100-percent disabled may be eligible to be paid at the 100-percent monetary rate. VA awards individual unemployability, often referred to as total disability for individual unemployability (TDIU), when a veteran’s service connected conditions prohibit him or her from maintaining gainful employment. This benefit is separate from Social Security Disability Income.
Military Sexual Trauma
Military sexual assaults occur with both men and women and often go unreported. Many Veterans believe they do not qualify for Veterans’ benefits for military sexual trauma if they did not report the assault when it happened, but that is not true. There is no time limit for a Veteran to file a claim for a military sexual trauma, even if it is decades later.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), also referred to as posttraumatic stress or posttraumatic stress syndrome, is caused by experiencing a traumatic event. Even though the event has passed, many people continue to experience symptoms for months or even years afterward.
Once VA grants service connection for a disability, they then assign a rating based on the severity of the condition. The rating assigned correlates with a monetary amount to be paid monthly. In most cases, the veteran is compensated retroactively back to the effective date of the claim. This means that VA must pay the monthly amount for the disability for each month the claim was open, usually awarded in a lump sum, in addition to the monthly benefits going forward.
Veterans who were injured while in the military, or who aggravated those injuries while in the military, may be eligible for disability compensation. In some cases, compensation claims injuries are immediately obvious, such as when a service member is physically injured while on active duty. Other times, veterans don’t experience symptoms until many years after service, such as in the form of a mental health condition or cancer due to exposure of hazardous materials like Agent Orange, Burn Pits, or Asbestos.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
If a veteran sustains a head injury or full body injury during their military service, there may be longstanding effects known as residuals of a traumatic brain injury. Many veterans are unaware that they’ve even sustained a TBI because they didn’t lose consciousness during the event. Anything from a mild concussion to being thrown in an explosion may constitute a TBI.