How to Add or Remove a Dependent from VA Compensation Benefits

Military veterans with a service-connected disability rating of 10% or more are often eligible to receive VA disability compensation benefits. Veterans may be eligible to receive a higher compensation rate if they are rated at 30% or higher and have one or more dependents, including a spouse, child, or a parent in their care. Veterans with a service-connected disability rating of 20% or lower are not generally eligible for additional payments, except in limited circumstances.

Add a Dependent to VA Disability Compensation Claim

How to Add or Remove a Dependent from your VA Disability Compensation Claim

The status of your dependents is recorded by the VA when they process your initial disability compensation claim, but they are not able to automatically make changes to your dependent’s status. It is up to you to notify the VA when something changes which affects the eligibility of your dependents – this can include both adding or removing one or more dependents from your VA disability compensation benefits. Some reasons for these changes in dependents status include a birth, adoption, or death, marriage or divorce, a child no longer being eligible due to age restrictions, marriage, or other restrictions, adding a parent to your claim, etc.

When these changes occur, you need to contact the VA with this information so they can update your file. Keep in mind this may either increase or decrease your compensation rate, and in some cases, the benefits will be back dated to the effective date. This can result in an overpayment in which the recipient has received more money than they were eligible for, or they could receive a higher one time payment to make up the shortfall. The sooner you notify the VA, the better. It’s also important to note that when adding a child due to a birth or adoption, you need to wait until you have their Social Security Number before filing your claim. So you may need to wait a couple months from the time of birth before you can add your new dependent.

Change Declaration of Status of Dependents for VA Compensation Benefits

There are two ways to change the status of your dependents:

  • Paper via VA Form 21-686c, Declaration of Status of Dependents, or
  • Electronically via VONAPP

VA Form 21-686c, Declaration of Status of Dependents. VA Form 21-686c is a two page paper form, which according to the VA, should take approximately 15 minutes to fill out. The form is fairly straight forward, and requests the standard information, such as the veteran’s personal information and VA File number, marriage status, information regarding your unmarried children, including their name, SSN, age, schooling status, etc. Then you simply need to sign the form and mail it in to the VA center which handles your claim.





You can download the form here: VA Form 21-686c (pdf).

VONAPP. The VA is making an effort to move more features and services online, which is faster and less costly in the long run. That is where Veterans On Line Applications (VONAPP) comes in. Veterans are now able to use VONAPP to apply for VA compensation, pension, education, vocational rehabilitation and employment, burial benefits, and more. Veterans can also use this online tool to update the status of their dependents, file claims for increases in service-connected disabilities, add disabilities, and more.

Questions about submitting online forms:

  • Should I file a paper form and via VONAPP? No – choose one or the other. The electronic form may be processed more quickly, provided all the information is complete. Otherwise, there is no difference between the forms, and submitting multiple claims can delay the process.
  • How do I sign it? Some forms require veterans to certify the information they entered is accurate – this serves as your signature. VA Form 21-686c is included in this list of forms which can be “electronically” signed.
  • How do I follow up with my claim? The VA automatically sends an e-mail when they receive your claim, and another when your claim is downloaded and the claim is being processed. The information includes your name, date of submission, and which regional VA office received your form (including their contact information). You should contact the regional VA center which is processing your claim for more information or updates on the status of your claim.
  • More VONAPP Claims FAQs.

Find more information at the VONAPP Home Page.

Want to learn more about filing your claim online? Check out our tutorials on how to create a VONAPP account and how to file a claim with VONAPP.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to file these changes as soon as they occur. The last thing you want to happen is to receive an overpayment to your VA compensation benefits for several months, only to have the money deducted from future payments.




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Date published: March 6, 2012. Last updated: April 3, 2012.

Article by

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is currently serving in the IL Air National Guard. He also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google.

Comments

  1. My husband and I had our first daughter while he was still active duty and so when he was done with his active duty she was automatically added onto his disability. In October 2012 we had our second daughter and we are still fighting to get her added on to his disability (It is now November 2014). We have daughter #3 on the way also and I fear it will take years to get her added on as it has taken with our second daughter. Is it normal for it to take this long to get a child added onto the veteran’s disability? Is there something he can do to make this process go faster? Someone he can contact directly about the fact this has taken so long?

    • Casey, Unfortunately, this is relatively common. I’ve heard of it taking over two years to get a dependent added to a compensation claim. I am unaware of how this can be pushed through more quickly (the VA is seriously backlogged with claims). My only recommendation is to contact the VA and ask them about the process, how long it should take, and if someone can push it through for you.

      The good news is the VA will give you back pay dated to the date of your child’s birth if you filed the claim right away. So you may be in for a several hundred dollar payment when the claim goes through. Future payments would be at the full rate. I hope this helps.

  2. If a veteran was paid for and accident that had taking place in service. Does the dependant of the veteran at that time which was 15 years ago get back compensation pay?

    • DJ, Compensation pay is only for the veteran. The veteran may receive additional compensation if they have a disability rating of 30% or higher. That payment would be made directly to the veteran. Under certain circumstances, there may be additional benefits which are paid to the veteran. The dependent does not receive any direct monetary compensation.

  3. Hi
    If an ex does not remove you as a dependent, what can be done and how by me, anonymously?
    I have reason to believe my ex has been using myself and our son to gain more money from the VA. I have had no part and want no part in this type of fraud and would like it looked into.

  4. I filed a paper claim thru mail to add my spouse and my son, and haven’t gotten confirmation that it was received, how long does that take? I’m concerned I didn’t send it to the right office, I sent it to the office that sends me my veterans id.

  5. Hi , I am at 20% and have been since 1991. I had a child, of whom I have sole custody, in 2005 that has been diagnosed with severe ADHD and Anxiety. He is currently on a meds cocktail to help him, but it only helps a bit. Symptoms of the ADHD and Anxiety still present themselves with the medication. The doctors and treatment really put a burden on my finances. I recently was told by a more savvy compensated vet that I may get dependent level VA Disability payments vs. Non-dependent. You had mentioned that under 30% compensation may be awarded under certain circumstances. Do you think I would qualify or is each case based upon their own set of circumstances?

    • Robert, Thanks for contacting me. Unfortunately, this isn’t something I am aware of. I recommend contacting a Veterans Service Officer at a Veterans Service Organization such as the VFW, DAV, American Legion, etc. They offer free benefits claims assistance and can help you with your specific situation.

  6. Thanks, Ryan. I’ll look into them.

  7. George Taxiarhopoulos says:

    I am 40% disabled and got married 5 years ago. I was not aware there are higher rates for veterans with dependents. I also have 2 step children and 3 year old of my own. I believe I will receive higher rates when I apply, but will I receive retro pay from the time I was married?

    • George, You will normally receive back pay from the date you file your claim, not to the day you were married or first eligible. So you should file as soon as possible. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  8. What do you do when you sent the information to be changed but it was not changed by the VA? I recently received a verification form in the mail and it still listed my ex wife that I previously submitted to be removed.

  9. My compensation has been changed from 20 to 30%, therefore I am adding my dependents. My spouse and one child lives with me while my other daughter lives with her mother. Are both children used in the calculation of the compensation? Both children are under 18 years old.

    Thank you

  10. Spc. Jack Smith says:

    I am going through the same thing. My son is over 2 years old now, and has yet to be added to my disability compensation. Every time I contact the VA they provide different information about this so called “process”. If they are so backlogged then why? Seems like nobody is doing there job there at all. Logon to E-benefits, it tells you the estimated wait time on dependency claims is 4 months. This badly needs updating. Anyone that has any information at all about how to actually get a dependent added to your compensation please share.

  11. jesmilee merced says:

    I have sent this from over 3 times and still havent received any answer or change in my compensation.

    • Jesmilee, You will need to contact the VA by phone. Some veterans have recently reported it has taken over two years to have the dependent claim updated. You should receive back pay to the effective date of claim if you are adding a dependent. Best of luck.

  12. My daughter is a full time college student and I am rated at 70%. she is currently registering for the next semester but is having problems with the classes she needs to remain full time which will problem take her 3/4 time. VA is still adding her to my compensation AGAIN (her 18th birthday was one month after they added her–literally took 2 years). Will she be dropped if she is not full time? I rather not take unnecessary classes just to remain on my compensation I am not receiving for her.

    • Kim, I believe she needs to attend college full-time to be considered a dependent. However, it is best that you contact the VA to verify this. The difference at a 70% disability rating is $182 per month. So it’s fairly substantial. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  13. Rebecca Coleman says:

    Fortunately, I was able to add my new husband relatively quickly. Married in Mar 2014, attempted filing online in Jun 2014, finally filed online in October 2014…received VA letter in late Nov 2014 with new amount.

    Ryan: Will I get retroactive increase w/depn back to date of marriage? or only back to date of claim? All was done within a year…I see conflicting posts.
    Thanks!

    • Rebecca, I have seen conflicting information as well. Typically you will receive back pay to the date you filed, however, it can sometimes be extended a little before that if you were waiting on documentation to add the dependent for your claim. In your case, I would expect to receive back pay to the date you filed, and consider it a bonus if you get it back to your wedding date. Sorry I don’t have a more exact answer.

  14. My son turned 18 in July 2012 and began college full time the next month. The VA has not yet added him to the compensation. All I get is the claim is received. I actually have letters from my Congressman, the VP Joe Biden and the former head of the VA. I have been calling quarterly and no joy. I even offered to go in person but my Congressman said it would not do any good. Is there nothing we can do? One sheet of paper?

    • John, I’ve heard reports that adding and removing dependents can take over two years, or as little as a month. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of anything that can be done to speed up the process. I hope this is resolved for you ASAP. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  15. Hi John,

    I applied for VA benefits in May 2013 and was approved in June 2013. When I applied for my benefits I was already married and my son was 5 months old.

    My wife is not from the United States, but she does have an iTIN number.

    Also according to the rules for the VA , “spousal status is predicated on a valid marriage under state law”

    We were Married in the State of California in March 2013.

    Is she still accepted as a dependent according to the VA?

  16. Mr. Nelson says:

    To all the people that are waiting for their dependents to be added. I waited about 20 months and my son was added, finally! (this is not including my wife).

    I was retro paid and the money we received we went out to Disneyland as a family :)

    I know it becomes stressful, as long its pending you should be good.

    A trick I discovered was I went to talk to my Voc Rehab counselor and she was a able assist me in adding my dependents. (I hope that can help someone).

  17. Mr. Nelson says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I applied for VA benefits in May 2013 and was approved in June 2013. When I applied for my benefits I was already married and my son was 5 months old.

    My wife is not from the United States, but she does have an iTIN number.

    Also according to the rules for the VA , “spousal status is predicated on a valid marriage under state law”

    We were Married in the State of California in March 2013.

    Is she still accepted as a dependent according to the VA?

    • Mr. Nelson, Based on the information you provided, I would think so. But I recommend double-checking with the VA. You can also try contacting e Veterans Service Officer to help you with this topic. They will be able to help you file any additional paperwork if required. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  18. Courtney Prudhomme says:

    I came across this article doing a search on this dependent form. My daughter’s biological father sent me this form and said he needed my daughter’s information (social security number and such) to get HER money. I need to add he has abandoned her since she was 2 yrs old and has not contributed to her care since she was born. He claims that if I give this info to him and he fills it out – they will mail the money to my daughter. I dont think this is true but wanted to get second opinion before calling V.A. office. From what I have read online it seems it increases HIS check. Also it seems she couldnt’ be called a dependent of his since he pays zero dollars and cares for her zero amount of time. Do you have any clue about this type situation?

    • Courtney, Your assumption is correct – additional payments for dependents are made to the veteran, and not to the dependent. There are no separate payments made. These additional payments are designed to help the veteran better support their dependents. To legally claim a dependent, the veteran must financially support the dependent. Based on the scenario you explain, I would not give this information to the veteran unless there was a court order stipulating he is required to provide financial support for his daughter.

  19. In December 2014 my son turned 2 years old and I added him to my dependents. Will I receive retro from the date he was born or no? Thanks

    • Jeremy, Normally, you will only get back pay to the date you filed. Sometimes back pay will be back to the date the status changed, if filed right away (for example, you could file a month or two after birth and still get the back pay to the birth month if you are awaiting a birth certificate). My recommendation is to call the VA and ask for the official policy, so you know how to plan for it. Also, keep in mind that some people have reported it taking up to two years to have a dependent added to a claim. Other people have had it go through in a couple months. So it’s best to stay up on things. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  20. Hello,

    Have you heard that the VA has hired an contractor to help process claims to add dependents? I call the VA yesterday and was told about this. The VA rep copied my information from the form I sent in to another new sheet and emailed to the contractor to process. I was told I will receive a letter in the email, in about 15 days.

    • Great news, Dawn! I know several people who had to wait over two years to have a dependent added or removed from their claim. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  21. Hello Ryan,

    Great News!!!! My wife was finally approved as a dependent:) I was retro paid from the date I filed my paper work. I was told several times again and again that she would not be approved due to no SSN (legal status). I filed her iTIN with the VA and sent my Marriage Cert via ebenfits and the regional office in los angeles. Also on a separated note the VA said that they made an error on my 0% IBS and raised it to the full max which is 30% (retro for that also). So just save all your paper work and constantly do follow ups. DO NOT GIVE UP!!!

  22. Hello…. My question is my lil sister is 30 years old & just met her dad who is in his 60’s now. At the time when she was born he was active in the service. He now is a disabled veteran.. Is there any way she can get backpay for ages 1-18 for being the only child of a vet?? I know its been a while.. I was just curious & we are trying to figure this out… Thanks..

    • Antoine, I hope your sister is able to form a lasting relationship with her father. Unfortunately, the VA does not give back pay to dependents. The additional income is given to the veteran, and is to be used to help support the dependent. In addition, the veteran must have submitted a claim for the dependent while she was of an eligible age. In this case, I do not believe it is possible to make a claim for these benefits.

  23. Do I need to submit copies of my divorce papers along with the declaration of status of dependents? I got divorced last week. Thanks.

    • Blas, Sorry to hear about your divorce. I know you are required to submit official documentation when you add a dependent, but I am not sure if that is required to remove a dependent. I recommend contacting the VA to double-check.

  24. heather phelps says:

    1. Im currently recieving disability compensation with a 70% rating. Im recieveing $1142.89 for vereran only but noticed the pay table shows $1331. Is there a reason im not recieving the $1331?

    2. How can I remove previous husband and add my current husband and 2 step children both under 18.

    3. Can I add my mother in law as a dependant if she is under my care?

  25. I was divorced in August of 2011. I submitted my VA Form to have my spouse taken off of my record. Unfortunately, when I received a letter in Mar 2012 showing my summary of benefits I thought it was an update because of my divorce. I received a call last month telling me my claim for the divorce was being handled now. Due to the backlog it took 40 months to be processed. I now owe quite a bit of money back to the VA. Had I have went on the VA website much earlier and checked the compensation rates ( I honestly didn’t know they were posted) I would have known I was being paid too much. Im not sure if VONAPP was available in 2011 to change my records online but that is probably the way to go for anyone in the future.

  26. Hello,
    I am a 60% disabled veteran. I waited 10 years after I retired to submit my claim, I submitted it and receive compensation currently. My problem is when I applied, I annotated on the first page of the app my husband, also a disabled veteran, his SSN etc. On the second page I entered my prior marriage. When I was approved for compensation they paid me at the single rate. I immediately called the VA and asked why I was not receiving the additional for my husband, I was told I could not claim him as a dependent because he is claiming me. Nothing I could do about that. Recently here at work we had a VA rep come in for training, he told all of us that if you are two veterans, disabled and married you can claim each other. I immediately called the VA, I was approved immediately, not to when I originally was approved but to when I called and reported my husband. It is frustrating because I did in fact call, I have no reason to make that up. I can file a NOD, but I think they will deny me because the form was filled out wrong, which was deceiving to begin with. A person would think by filling out the page with all the info about your present spouse, you would have to enter it again under marriages. Any recommendation? thank you very much

    • Tena, I recommend contacting a Veterans Service Officer at a veterans organization such as the DAV, VFW, American Legion, etc. They generally offer free veterans benefits claims assistance and can help you one on one. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  27. So, I am a disabled veteran with 40% rating. I am engaged to a woman who is pregnant with my child, and has one of her own. Can I receive additional compensation for her and the children?

    • Anthony, Thank you for contacting me. You can only receive additional compensation for legal dependents. So you would only be eligible to receive compensation for your fiance if the two of you get married. To receive compensation for her daughter, I believe you would have to legally adopt her – but you may wish to verify. You would, however, be eligible to receive additional compensation for your daughter after she is born, because she would be your legal dependent upon birth. I hope this helps. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  28. Gary McKnight says:

    Ok, I have a question. I have read some of the answers with regard to the date of retro pay when filing a dependent claim. And the response is “you should receive back pay from the date you filed”. My question, is that date from the time the ORIGINAL disability claim was filed or the date the DEPENDENCY claim was filed? If anyone could clarify this, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you

    • Gary, Thank you for contacting me. If you included your dependents on your original claim, then the back pay should be to your original claim date (provided you met the minimum 30% disability rate or higher). If you did not have dependents on your claim when you filed, then the back pay would be to the date the dependency claim was filed. I hope this answers your question.

  29. Hello,

    I receive 100% C&P and just had a daughter January of 2014. I filed to add her as a dependent February 2015. Its March, and they have increased my payment by hundred dollars. My question is, will the VA back pay me from the date of my daughters birth or from when I filed to add her.Thanks

    -Ryan

    • Ryan, Thank you for contacting me. The VA will typically provide back pay to the date you file the dependency request. Sometimes they will go back to the birth date or marriage date if you were awaiting documentation to provide the VA (such as a SSN, birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.). In your case, I’m not certain which way it will go. Back pay is normally made separately from your regular payment, so if they do give you back pay, it would come in a different payment. The best I can tell you is to contact the VA and ask them to look at your profile. They should be able to give you a definite answer. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  30. I have been maried for 30 years and retired for five. I receive disability and noticed the pay chart on line. I am not receiving the amount for spouse. Will the VA back pay the five years or just back to today when I noticed the error?

    • Peter, Thank you for contacting me. The VA will usually only back pay to the day the claim was filed, or the date the dependent was added to the claim. So if you had your dependent on your initial claim and there was a clerical error on the VA’s part, you may receive back pay to the date you began receiving your VA compensation. If you are just adding your dependent to your claim now, then you would likely only receive back pay to the date you filed to add your dependent.

  31. I was married(2006) prior to receiving disability when I file(2009) and now I am getting a divorce and I went to look at the difference of pay for the first time and I notice I have never been getting paid with spouse for my disability.. I am sure when I file that my marriage was accounted for what could I do about that?

    • Ernest, Thank you for contacting me. If you have a record of your original disability claim and you can prove that your spouse was on your claim, then the VA should give you back pay for the dates your spouse was on your claim, but you didn’t receive that additional compensation. If you don’t have proof that your spouse was on your claim, I’m not sure there is anything you can do, other than add your spouse now, then remove her from your claim after your divorce is finalized.

  32. Has anyone had the VA drop one of your eligible dependents? My husband has a 50% disability rating. When our oldest son turned 18 in Nov 2012, his benefit amount was reduced despite the fact that he was a senior in high school. My husband filed a claim to reestablish him as a dependent. However, it still has not happened. Our son is currently in his second year of college and our youngest son will turn 18 in the fall and will also be a senior in high school.

  33. Hello, I just retired and became a veteran. My husband is active duty so do I get to claim he as my spouse. What about my children, he claims them as his dependents so does that mean I cannot claim as my children?

    Thank you!

    • Mary, The VA allows you to claim all legal dependents on your VA disability claim. This includes your spouse, children, or other authorized dependents (for example if you care for another adult). Typically, this means the dependents must live with you and you must provide for them financially. The VA will be able to assist you with any questions you may have when you fill out your claim. Or you can use the assistance of a Veterans Service Organization, many of which offer free benefits claims assistance. Some examples include the DAV, VFW, American Legion, etc. Best of luck with your claim, and thank you for your service!

  34. Thank you Ryan! Is there any documents that I can goggle on this? My husband and daughter lives with me but since he is still on active duty, he (my husband) was never my dependent in the eyes of the Navy and my daughter he claims as his dependent on his page two. However, they are still my spouse and child… Thank you again, Mary

    • Mary, I couldn’t find the specific documents that show the law concerning dependents for VA purposes. However, the claim form doesn’t list any questions regarding whether or not the spouse can claim you or your children as a dependent for military purposes, or for VA purposes. The VA is separate from the military system, and in this case, you should be able to claim your spouse and children as dependents for VA purposes. Best of luck with your claim!

  35. I have been married since Sept 2009. I got out of the Marine Corps after 6 years of service in October 2012. I filed my VA claim just before I got out. I was approved for VA healthcare December 2013. Just a few months ago I was told by a VA rep I was not receiving pay for my spouse. I filed to add my spouse and the rep said I would get back pay. Is this true? That would be around sixty bucks over a thirty month period coming to about 1800$. I don’t know if that’s true and I am asking for some verification. I will appreciate the help. Thank you

    • Sam, The VA will normally give back pay to the date you filed your paperwork, provided you included all the correct information. For example, if your dependents were correctly listed on your VA claim when you originally filed it, they should give you back pay to the date you filed. If you later added a dependent, back pay is normally given to the date you filed to add the dependent. I’ve heard there can be some exceptions, but that is how things normally work. I hope this helps. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  36. Hello Ryan,

    Thank you for your service too! Sorry for the delay but I wanted to thank you for checking on that information for me.

    Take care,
    Mary

  37. I just discovered today that I should be getting more money. I have four children ages 3 to 7. No one ever told me i could get money for them. So I called the VA and they said I was receiving benefits at a rating for 100 percent for myself and my spouse, no children. All of my children were born when I was given my rating and effective date, when I add them will I get get retro pay to the date I started receiving benefits?

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