Effective Dates for VA Disability Benefits

How much you'll get in veterans back pay depends on your "effective date" for disability compensation benefits.

By , Attorney · Northeastern University School of Law

The day that the VA begins to owe you disability payments is called your effective date. For veterans who are entitled to disability based on a direct service connection, the effective date is (usually) the date the VA received their application. Veterans who are awarded disability based on a presumed service connection will have an effective date based on the date they first got the illness or injury.

Will My VA Disability Pay Start on My Effective Date?

Not quite. The VA will start paying you disability benefits beginning on the first day of the month after your effective date. For example, if you applied for benefits on October 12, 2021 and your claim was approved on January 5, 2023, your effective date would be October 12, 2021—but the VA would calculate your back pay from November 1, 2021.

Back pay means the amount of money that the VA owes you for the time that you were disabled but not getting benefits. Because the VA can take months or even years to approve disability applications, veterans can expect a significant "lump sum" payment based on their percentage rating and number of dependents.

VA Disability Pay Dates for 2023

Payments are usually made on the first business day of the month, but sometimes it changes if that day is on a weekend or holiday. For instance, if your pay date is supposed to be the first business day of the month, but it lands on a Saturday, you might get paid on the Friday before.

Below is a handy chart for the dates in 2023 that the VA will pay disability benefits.

If you were entitled to benefits during:

Then the VA will pay you benefits on:


February 1 (Wednesday)


March 1 (Wednesday)


March 31 (Friday)


May 1 (Monday)


June 1 (Thursday)


June 30 (Friday)


August 1 (Tuesday)


September 1 (Friday)


September 29 (Friday)


November 1 (Wednesday)


December 1 (Friday)


December 29 (Friday)

When Is the Effective Date Different Than the Application Date?

One of the most important factors for the VA when determining your effective date is your medical records. The VA will review your doctors' notes and decide when you first met the requirements for disability compensation. Because most veterans apply for disability after they've already been receiving treatment for a medical condition, the VA usually treats the application date as the effective disability date.

But sometimes the effective date can be earlier than the application date. Veterans will get back pay before the date of their original application in the following circumstances:

  • Recently discharged veterans who apply for benefits within one year of separation from active duty will have their date of discharge be their effective disability date.
  • Vietnam veterans who filed for disability for an Agent Orange-related illness may have their effective disability date be the date of a prior VA claim under the conditions of 38 CFR §3.816 (Nehmer orders) or the date the VA recognized the illness was related to Agent Orange exposure.
  • Errors in a previous decision made by the VA that are "clear and unmistakable" can be fixed in a new decision, by making the effective date the earliest date that benefits would have been paid if the VA didn't make a mistake.
  • Changes in laws that allow the VA to pay disability benefits can result in an effective date being the date the law changed, or up to one year before the VA received your application.

If you filed a claim to increase your disability rating and the VA granted your request, the effective date for the increase will typically be the date you filed your claim for the increase.

If you "reopened" a previously denied claim due to new and material evidence, and the VA awarded you benefits, your effective date will be the date you submitted your application to reopen the claim.

How Can I Get an Early Effective Date?

If you haven't applied for benefits yet, you should notify the VA as soon as possible that you intend to file an application. Filing an "informal claim" before you officially submit your application establishes the earliest possible effective date, and gives you the largest possible retroactive payment if you're awarded benefits.

You can notify the VA in writing or use VA Form 21-4138, Statement in Support of Claim, of your intent to file for disability compensation. Include your name, dates of service, and Social Security number.

After you submit your informal claim, the VA will send you an application for disability benefits. You must complete and submit your application without one year of receiving it, or you'll lose your right to the earlier effective date based on your informal claim.

Can I Get Retroactive Benefits Earlier Than the Effective Date?

While your effective date determines the amount of back pay you'll receive, some veterans might be eligible for "retroactive" benefits that go back even further than the effective date. A fully-developed claim for disability compensation can qualify a vet for benefits up to one year before the filing date, if it's the veteran's first disability claim and they were disabled for one year before submitting an application.

For more information, see our article on fully developed veterans disability claims.

What if the VA Never Issued a Decision on My Original Application?

If the VA failed to issue a decision on your original application for benefits, and you later file a new application, the effective date may be the date of your original application—but only if the medical evidence shows that you were disabled on that date.

You'll need to prove that you did apply for benefits earlier, and there can't be any communication from the VA that you might have thought was a denial letter. Other legal matters must also be considered that require consultation with a VA disability attorney.

Updated June 7, 2023

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