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.


  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.

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