The VA established a service-connection for my disability several years ago, but I only found out recently. Could I potentially be awarded veterans’ disability compensation back pay dating back to when the adjustment was made?

Unfortunately, it is very unlikely.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a legal obligation to notify veterans of policy changes that could potentially affect their eligibility for VA disability benefits compensation, such as establishing a service-connection for certain long-term injuries and disabilities.

However, even when a veteran is able to unambiguously prove that the VA failed to contact him with this crucial information, the department will not issue an effective date earlier than the one they will receive when actually submitting their application for veterans’ disability compensation.

Several veterans have tried to argue the case that they would have applied for disability benefits at a much earlier point in time if they’d known that they might have been eligible for benefits. So far, no one has won a case of this nature and veterans only receive back pay with respect to their first accepted application for VA disability benefits.

There Is One Significant Exception to This General Rule

An important exception exists for Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. Agent Orange is an herbicide that was used to clear trees and brush during the Vietnam War. At the time that it was used, service members were told that it was harmless. However, since 1991 the United States Congress has recognized that Agent Orange has caused significant health problems for veterans.

If you are a Vietnam veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam, it is possible that you may be able to obtain an earlier effective date. Typically, the veteran is awarded back pay to the date the health condition was officially linked by the VA to Agent Orange exposure.

If you are a veteran struggling to get the VA disability benefits you and your family need for support, then you should discuss your case with an experienced disability veterans’ benefits attorney. Contact us today for more information about your rights and the potential benefits you may receive.

Carl M. Weisbrod
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Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law