Congress Could Consider Changing the Effective Date Provision for VA Disability Pension Awards

HRD-84-15: Published: Feb 27, 1984. Publicly Released: Feb 27, 1984.

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GAO reviewed the effective date provision of the Veterans Administration's (VA) of the non-service-connected disability pension program. This provision permits pension awards to be made retroactively for up to 1 year from the date a veteran applies for these benefits, which are based on the veteran's financial need.

The current effective date provision was implemented to alleviate hardship when a veteran is not able to apply promptly for benefits because of a disability. However, GAO found that, of an estimated $32.3 million that VA paid under this provision, about $31 million was paid to veterans whose disabilities did not prevent them from promptly applying. In light of this finding and the recent congressional action to eliminate retroactive benefits from three other major VA programs, GAO presented two alternatives for amending the effective date provision.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs adopted the alternative recommendation provided in the other recommendation

    Matter: Congress may wish to maintain the uniformity among VA programs and not amend the effective date provision of the disability program. However, if Congress wishes to apply its recent rationale to this program, it could consider two alternatives for amending the effective date provision. If Congress decides that VA disability pension benefits should not be provided before the veteran recognizes a need for and requests assistance, it could amend title 38 U.S.C. 3010(b)(3) to provide that: "The effective date of an award of disability pension to a veteran shall be the date of application."

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

    Matter: If Congress decides that disability pension benefits should not be provided before the veteran recognizes a need for and requests assistance, but that payments for periods before the application date should be made to veterans whose disabilities prevented them from promptly applying for benefits, Congress could amend title 38 U.S.C. 3010(b)(3) as follows: "The effective date of an award of disability pension to a veteran shall be the date of application unless the disability caused a delay in applying, in which case, if an application is received within 1 year from the date the veteran became permanently and totally disabled, the effective date shall be a date that is the same number of days that the Administrator determines the veteran was delayed in applying because of the disability, or the date of application, whichever is to the advantage of the veteran."

 

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