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VA Compensation and Backpay: The Importance of Timing

It is crucial for Veterans to finish their disability claim within one year of filing for several reasons:

  1. Effective Date of Benefits: Completing the claim within one year ensures that the effective date of benefits is preserved. This means that if the claim is approved, the benefits will be backdated to the date the claim was initially filed, ensuring the Veteran receives the maximum possible amount of retroactive pay. IF the claim is drawn out because of requests for evidence, denials and appeals, or any other reason, as long as the Veteran returns the requested paperwork in the time stated on the VA Correspondence, the effective date is retained. 
  2. Intent to File Protection: Filing an Intent to File gives Veterans 12 months to gather and submit the necessary evidence to support their claim. If the full claim is not submitted within this timeframe, the effective date may be affected, potentially reducing the amount of retroactive benefits received.
  3. Appeal Rights: Veterans have one year from the date of the VA’s notification letter to appeal a claims decision. If they miss this deadline, they will have to refile the claim with a Supplemental Claim and most likely the effective date then becomes the date the supplemental claim is filed. Therefore, it is very important, if you are denied, to file something within one calendar year of the denial to retain the original effective date.
  4. Pre-Discharge Claims: For those still in service, filing a pre-discharge claim 90-180 days before separation can expedite the process, ensuring they receive benefits sooner after discharge.

We can see then why timing is important. Let’’s take a look at some of the ideas presented above in detail.

Effective Date

The effective date is the date from which the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) starts paying disability benefits. This date is crucial because it determines the amount of back pay a veteran will receive once their claim is approved. The effective date is generally the date the VA receives the claim, but there are some circumstances where an earlier date can be assigned:

  1. Initial Claims: For most initial claims, the effective date is the date the VA receives the application.
  2. Pre-Discharge Claims: If a service member files a claim before discharge, the effective date can be the day after they leave the service.
  3. Reopened Claims: For claims that are reopened with new and relevant evidence, the effective date is usually the date of the new claim.
  4. Increases in Disability Rating: When a veteran requests an increase in their disability rating, the effective date is usually the date the VA receives the request.

Understanding the effective date is essential as it impacts the amount of retroactive benefits a veteran can receive, ensuring they are compensated fairly from the appropriate start date.

Intent to File

An Intent to File (ITF) is a preliminary step that veterans can take to notify the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) of their intention to submit a claim for disability compensation, pension, survivors pension, or Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). Filing an ITF is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Establishes an Effective Date: If you are planning to submit a claim but haven’t gathered all of the evidence yet, go ahead and submit an ITF. This sets the effective date as the date you file the ITF. As long as you file the claim within one calendar year, that effective date of the ITF will be retained.
  2. Provides Time to Gather Evidence: Veterans have up to one year from the date of the ITF to collect and submit the necessary documentation and evidence to support their claim. This helps ensure that veterans have sufficient time to prepare a comprehensive claim.
  3. Prevents Delay in Benefits: By establishing the intent early, veterans can avoid potential delays in receiving benefits. The VA recognizes the ITF as the starting point, so the formal application process can proceed without loss of benefits eligibility from the date of intent.

Veterans can submit an ITF online, by calling the VA, or by mailing VA Form 21-0966. This form serves as a formal notification of their intent to file a claim

Pre-discharge Claim

A pre-discharge claim is a type of disability benefits claim that service members can file before they leave the military. This program, jointly managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DOD), allows service members to start the claims process while still on active duty. Here are the key points about pre-discharge claims:

  1. Timing: Service members can file a pre-discharge claim 180 to 90 days before their separation from the military. This timing helps ensure that the benefits process starts promptly and that there is minimal delay in receiving compensation after discharge.
  2. Eligibility: The program is available to active duty service members, including those in the National Guard and Reserve. It is specifically designed for those who have service-connected conditions or injuries that they believe are related to their military service.
  3. Benefits: Filing a pre-discharge claim can expedite the delivery of disability compensation, making the transition to civilian life smoother. It allows for a quicker determination of benefits eligibility and ensures that service members receive the support they need as soon as possible.
  4. Support: Organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion offer assistance with the preparation and submission of pre-discharge claims. In addition, your local County Veteran Service Officer is available to assist you in filing. These representatives can guide service members through the process, helping them to gather necessary documentation and evidence.

By utilizing the pre-discharge claim program, service members can proactively manage their disability compensation and ensure they receive timely benefits.

In every instance, we advise seeking the help of a local accredited Veteran Service Officer. They deal with compensation claims, appeals, and many other benefits on a daily basis and will be glad to help you.

As always, we hope this has been helpful. Drop us a comment below or email us at

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