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VA’s “Fully-Developed Claim” Program Allows for Retroactive Payment of Disability Benefits

Much has been made of the stubborn backlog of benefits claims at the Veterans Administration. When a veteran submits an incomplete claim, the clock starts ticking, and keeps ticking even if the documentation the veteran submitted is incomplete and the VA claims processor has to send it back with a request for additional information.

The VA is now addressing this with a new incentive program: For original claims submitted between August 6th, 2013 and August 5th, 2015, the VA is paying a higher benefit to those who do the paperwork right the first time.

The bonus compensation does not apply to “supplemental” claims; that is, to claims submitted by veterans already receiving benefits because their medical condition or disability status has changed.

Under the VA’s Fully-Developed Claim Program, however, veterans who have all their ducks in a row when they do initiate a claim may qualify for up to one year retroactive disability benefits – going back to the date they submitted that fully-developed claim.

Furthermore, the VA, to its credit, has developed a system to make it much easier for veterans to file fully-documented new claims:

  • Log onto eBenefits at
  • Click on Apply for Benefits.
  • Click Apply for Disability Compensation.
  • Answer the questions about you claim.

To preserve the date in the system, click SAVE and Continue. This establishes the day from which the VA may be able to pay you retroactively if your claim is approved.

You have one year from the start date to gather your evidence and submit your claim. The VA will not process your claim until you hit Submit.

You should be prepared to tell the VA the following information:

  • Where you have been treated at VA medical facilities and when.
  • Whether you receive Social Security (SSI) benefits for a service-related condition or disability.
  • Where your treatment records or DoD personnel records are located. However, if you have these records, submit them yourself.

Also, gather up all relevant records of private treatment. If you are in the Reserve Component (National Guard or Reserves), you must also identify and submit all relevant private medical treatment records.

You should also submit supporting statements of family, friends, clergy, medical professionals, etc., if you don’t believe the incident resulting in your disability is recorded in your records.

Scan all your documents, and, in the eBenefits section of the VA website, select Upload Documents, then Manage Files. From here, you can upload the documents you scanned into the VA system.

The VA recommends that you have a Veterans Service Officer, or VSO, review your application for completion. Once you have everything uploaded, you can let a VSO look at your file and advise you on anything missing that could delay or endanger your claim.

The National Care Planning Council – not a federal agency – maintains a listing of state and county Veterans Services Officers here.

Once you have had a VSO look at your claim – or you have elected not to appoint a VSO, click No More Evidence and Submit.

A more detailed checklist is available here.

Again, once you initiate your claim via the Fully Developed Claim program, you have a year to complete it. If your claim is successful, the VA will pay benefits retroactively to the date you initiated your claim.

For more information, see this brochure published by the VA.

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