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 in the USAF and also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google


  1. Samuel Sumner says:

    I submitted my paperwork to add my dependents in June 2011. I still have not received any follow up and the status on ebenefits says “under review” and a estimated completion date of 4/8/12. It is currently 12/18/12, why does it take so long and is there a way to speed it up?

  2. Ryan wrote, “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.”

    This is not entirely true. I filled out my 21-686c when I made my initial claim, but the VA assumes after years of your claim sitting and collecting dust, that you’ve become divorced, or your children have grown past 18 (or died themselves…) and, in my case at least, they make you resubmit the 686c. Thanks, so now my new dependency claim gets to await another 14+ months at least before approval. I wonder if they’ll make me resubmit a second time after it has taken so long again!

  3. I just got married and submitted the form over the Internet. I wonder how long it will take me to see an increase in benefits. I am currently rated 70 percent SC due to injuries overseas a few years ago. i hope its quicker than the initial phase to get the benefits.

  4. My question is what happens to a veteran receiving disability money but he has kept his ex wife and son on and altered his marriage license to his current wife and submitted that to the VA. The marriage license to his current wife was altered to reflect 3 years of marriage instead of the correct and legal 10 ears. What if he also lied by saying her resided with his ex and son, but in actuality was living for the past 15 years with his current wife. The current wife just found out and the couple now live in another state as well. Is this an interstate issue now, and is the current wife liable even she just became aware of the duplicitous act? What should she do she’s petrified. Se has the legal license and a copy of the prior divorce which occurred in 1999, he’s live with his current wife since 1998 and married her in 2003

  5. Good day Ryan, My daughter turned 18 in Jan 2011 during her senior year of high school, she graduated in June 2011. She entered college in Sept 2011, and is now a sophomore. I wasn’t aware that she was dropped from my disability claim. I submitted the form to have her reinstated, but VA never received it, so I resubmitted in may 2012. A VA representative informed me that I filed after a year of her being dropped, so that I would only receive back compensation from may 2012. You mentioned that in some cases you can receive I assume full compensation. Can you please add any insight on this? Thank you.

    • Kenneth, Backdating for pay usually only happens back to the date you filed a claim that the VA accepts. For example, say you file a claim on January 2012 and the VA accepts it on July 2012, they would normally give you back pay to that January. In this case, the VA doesn’t have a record of your previous claim, so they would only backdate your pay to the claim they received and accepted, which was May 2012. The only way I know that you might be able to get back pay to a previous date would be if you had a record of the prior claim you sent, such as a digital receipt if you filed electronically, or something similar.

  6. Thank you ryan

    It looks as though I am going to lose out on a couple months, because I won’t be able to find the proof that I had submitted earlier. Lesson to all register all important mail that you send someone, or keep a digital copy of all electronic correspondences. Thanks again

  7. I originally filed to have my three kids added to my compensation back in 2009. They said I need to submit proof that they were my kids…ie birth certificates. So I did and I kept getting the run around that they did not receive the documents and I eventually just completely forgot about it. Fast forward to now. I refilled to add them in June of 2011. Well I just received the same notice I did the first time requesting proof (7 months later). So this time, I made sure they received the documents. Now they are telling me that it could take another four months to get this completed. Are you kidding me????? So it’s going to take a year to add dependents to my compensation….. not counting the two years I’ve waited to have them even receive the documents I’ve sent over and over again.
    To say the least, I’m fed up with this kind of work ethic from the VA. Yes I understand that they have thousands upon thousands of Vets that they are taking care of, but does that stop any corporation or business that has thousands of customers from completing the simplest of tasks in a timely manner? The answer is no, because if they did they wouldn’t be in business. Now I can understand an actual compensation claim taking longer because they have to have their medical review board look everything over and make a determination…. But an entire year to just add dependents… Really?
    And one more thing, and this one really gets me…. My wife who is also a veteran and who has been given a disability rating filed to have our kids added as dependents a little before mine and was never asked a single time to prove any sort of proof that they actually are her kids…. Her claim flew through, was back-dated until the day they were born with no questions asked. Yet I have to submit proof that they are my kids. Does that make sense? It really doesn’t to me.
    Is there anyone, other than my congressperson who I can get this stuff to and hopefully move this along? Or are we all just doomed to be treated like our claims and issues are just not important to them? I really could use any kind of help to get this finished before June as they are saying it is going to take.

    Thank you for reading/helping….

    A vet you feels that the people who should care really…..well just don’t.

  8. Had my babies 4-2-12 and their fixing to turn a year old. Filed the claim right after they were born I even sent them their birth certificates and socials. I sent the form in like 3 times to get it sped up. Still nothing. I also submitted it voa DONAPP and called them. Nothing!! WTH?? How long does this take?? And yes i had triplets. What do they need? A pic for proof?

  9. elizabeth says:

    I know exactly how the rest of you feel. I filed my claims back in May 2011 and was told that one of the issues I had claimed was defered. So months go by and I got letters that they were still working on it. Few more months go by and I got a letter asking for what hospital those records would be at and any information I had about that specific claim. They also wanted a wittness signature. So I filled it all out with the signature and sent it back. Of course I made sure to make a copy first. Then later in the fall of 2012 I get another letter same as the very first one I got way back in 2011 when I first filed everything stating they received my claim and where to send any additional information. Seriously???????!!!! I have done that twice already! If I email or call about it I am told it takes time we are backed up. Wth? It has been two years! I just going to call my Va Rep, and all state county offices in my area i.e. congress because two years is unsat. Makes me think of the Dr. Phil show I saw. If you haven’t seen it I strongly suggest you do.

  10. George W. Smith says:

    I was trying to get my benefits going. I went to the V A office and got my picture taken for my I.D. card. It’s been a couple of months and still no card. Do I need to go back over there?

    • George, I would try calling them to ask how long it usually takes to get your ID Card. IT shouldn’t take that long, but they may have had an issue or a backlog. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  11. Hi there. 11 months just to add a dependent, and as of today, nothing yet. It’s incredible how this system works. This type of claim should take no more than 6 months, not a year and a half!

  12. Efrem Jenkins says:

    The compensation for my son was automatically stopped the month after his 18th birthday, but he started college the next semester after high school. I went to the regional office in Atlanta and completed the proper paper work. How long does it take to be reinstated?

    • Efrem, Unfortunately, I don’t have a firm answer for you. I’ve heard some people are able to get it reinstated quickly, while in other cases, it can take several months. My recommendation is to wait a month or two and them contact your regional center if you haven’t heard back.

  13. theodore says:

    i have one son on my compensation and disability. i recently was blessed with another boy jan 23 2012. unfortunately his mother and i aren’t together, but regardless we were never married. todays date is may 4th 2013. if i finally add him as my dependent, would i get back pay from when he was born, or when i filed?
    and also can i be the noncustodial parent and still receive? even if both their mothers claim him as a dependent? it would be amazing if anybody could help! thanks,


  14. Theodore- I’m not really sure if you can claim your son if you do not have custody… I would assume you can but what makes sense with the VA????

    As for being back paid until he was born, I’m not really sure about that either… you see my ex-wife (an Army vet) claimed all three of our kids (two hers and one mine) and she was paid back pay from the day they were born… and they were 2, 3 and 4 at the time….. Now get this….. when I filled out the paperwork to claim them, I was only paid from the date that I filed to add them to my disability. How does that work!?!?!?!? Not only that, but she was never asked to prove any kind of relationship and prove they were hers…. but yet I had have to. It is a very sexist system.

  15. theodore alfano says:

    That’s crazy. .I wonder why…well thanks for the effort, if you hear of anything else let me know asap!

  16. Concerned parent says:

    Is the VA Form 21-686c no longer available on VONAPP? Today it was not in the drop-down box.

  17. If a child does not live with the veteran, can the veteran still receive compensation for them?

    • Ray, generally not, unless the veteran is the primary provider of financial support. In this case, I recommend contacting the VA for verification.

  18. charles noeltner says:

    My son will turn 18 when he is still in High School. My question will he drop of my as a dependent while he us still in school. Also he will be attending college will I be able to carry him as a dependent.

  19. Can i use an itin individual tax id number for my dependent spouse inplace of social security number ?

    • The VA needs a Tax Id number, so I believe that will work. But double-check with the VA to be certain. You will also need a copy of your marriage certificate or other proof of marriage.

  20. There must have been a recent change in VONAPP because I don’t see form 21-686C in VONAPP.

  21. The forms available in the drop down list are: 21-530, 22-1990, 22-1990N, 22-1990E, 22-1995, 22-5490, 22-5495, 28-1900 and 10-10EZ

  22. My son was dropped as a dependent Feb 2011 while he was in High School. Contacted Va and turned in paperwork Mar 2011. Son entered College in Fall 2011. Va added him back as dependent on 1 July 2013 per letter received along with large amount to be recouped. (TIME= 2 Years and 5 months later). Retroactive benefits still not received. Dfas finished review and sent back to Va on Aug 19th ,but, Va has still not sent payment and it been over 120 days. QUESTION? How long can the VA legally keep money that it owes you? Does VA have to follow any regulations.

    • Mary Ann, This is a great question, and one I do not have an answer to. The VA has different policies in place, and I don’t have access to their regulations. My recommendation is to get a single point of contact and make a weekly or monthly phone call to follow up on the matter. Always be polite, of course. But it won’t take long before the representative gets tired of hearing from you and will get you a concrete answer, at the minimum.

  23. Just FYI: I am a vet who has been receiving benefits since 2007 with 1 dependent.

    I put in a claim on Nov. 19, 2012 for my second child who was born May 2010 (yes, I lost track of time).
    TODAY..December 17, 2013 I received the first payment and info in the mail.
    Under the “What we decided” part of the info pack it states: “…we added your child to your award effective Nov 19, 2012, the date we received your claim. We used November 19, 2012 as the date of establishment because the claim was received more than one year after child’s birthday”. WHAT??!!
    Because I’ve noticed on here that some of you were given compensation from the date of birth no matter what date you put in a claim. DID SOMETHING CHANGE??? Can someone enlighten me? I am also wondering where the “rules” to this claim are? Thanks for any help!

  24. Rebecca Hagemann says:

    I’m facing the same issue as all the above. My orginal claim when in OCT 2011 when I retired after 25 yrs 11 months and 27 days of service. When I got my results in April of 2012 (pretty quick by most standards) they did not authorize me at the dependant rate. Said they didn’t have enough evidence. So I reapplied April of 2012 and found out in August 2012 (after poking the beast) that they needed “more information”. Apparently I didn’t put the number of times my husband had been married on block 8 of the form. I had filled out all the info below but had missed counting the times and puting the number in the box. I filled this out via paper or I may not have missed it if I used the electronic version. There is very little space to put any info and I totally overlooked it. So in August I immediately uploaded and snail mailed the answer they were looking for. My claim has been in “Pending decision approval” phase since then. DAV can’t even help. Still waiting. I’m sure if and when they do approve it they will bone it up and not give me back pay to OCT 2011. I will haunt them with more and more paperwork if that does happen.

  25. So….I submitted my dependency claim on November 18, 2012…..Today is December 23, 2013. I have contacted them numerous times only to be told that they have the claim and are in the process of working claims that are 1 year and old. For pete’s sake, it is a dependency claim adding ONE dependent!

  26. I sent in the form to add a dependent Jan. 2014, for my daughter born Feb. 2012. Will I get back pay back through her birthday, or will it be based off my date of dependent change, Jan. 2013.

  27. Correction Jan 2014

  28. I recently had filed a change to my status over year and a half ago sep 2012 VA has the claim how many years do I have to wait for them to fix this

  29. maybe after two or three years youll get backpaid to jan 2014

  30. Michael Palmer says:

    I was divorced in 1998 and remarried in 2005. I was in VA VOC REHAB at the time and filed the paper form to update my dependency status. I have been sent the paper form several times when either my disability status has changed or when my eldest son turned 18. Each time, I have filled the form out and sent it in. Now, February 2014, the VA is processing a change to remove my ex-wife. I don’t think they got the information for the change from one of the forms I filed years ago, so I think it is from signing up for service disabled life insurance and naming my current wife as beneficiary. Thus, they will probably take my ex-wife off and not add my current wife. They will probably not process my claim to add my disabled son (over 18) back on. And they will probably require me to repay (at least) from 1998 to 2005 when I was not married. I did not keep copies of the forms that I filed. How can I prove it was the VA that was in error?

  31. Hello Ryan

    Thanks for the info. After logging into Vonapp there is not an option in the drop down tab for form 21-686c. The only thing I see is to the left of the page that gives a brief description about the form, but nothing else. I sure hate calling VA or mailing the form in. Can you help me with this please.


  32. Orianne Hyppolyte-Glover says:

    The form is now available on ebenefits. I filed for an additional dependent on yesterday. Wonder how long this process will take and if I will receive backpay.

  33. Hello,
    I am a Veteran rated at 60%. My ex says she has a child that is mine and wants a dna test. After the child is proven to be mine she said she will go to the VA and add him as my dependant. Can she do that without my consent?
    Navy Vet

    • David, So far as I am aware, another individual cannot submit a claim to the VA on your behalf. However, this may not be the case if there is a court order. At that point it would be up to the courts. Also, I believe the VA disability rate with dependents assumes you have custody of the dependent. So for her to force the benefit to go through, I believe you would have to have partial custody of the child. It may be a good idea to visit with a lawyer if it goes that far.

  34. Thanks Ryan. I just hate the fact of women trying to get their ex’s military disability benefits. Another question. How much can dependents be alloted?

    • David, Here is the rate chart for disability benefits. In 2014, a 60% rating is $1,041.39 per month. With one child dependent, the rate is $1,105.34. The difference is $63.95 per month. Each additional child under age 18 is $47.50 per month. The rates are also different if you have a spouse, adult dependent (such as a parent), etc.

  35. Rebecca says:

    When my husband’s enlistment was up, he retrieved a 65% disability rating. At that time he only had 2 dependents. Me, and our oldest son. We recently sent in the form to add our other 2 children that we have had since then. He then got a letter in the mail stating he had to be re-evaluated for his disability. Should we be worried about that? we are kind of worried they will try to take away some of his rating to lower his monthly payment he receives. We are now feeling like we messed with a good thing and shouldn’t have tried to add our other children.

  36. I filed a dependantcy claim Dec 2012 and still haven’t gotten compensation for it yet. Still says sorry for the delay etc. 1 year and 6 months so far. I was told by a va rep on the phone that it’s taking between 18 months and 2 years for dependantcy claims. So ridiculous! ! I might write my Congressman because this is so unamerican!

  37. eraptor76 says:

    I sent a letter to my congressman and the VA said that my case was with a counselor 1 month ago for my dependency claim and still nothing two years later they cannot fix sorry problems

  38. I want to add my newborn son and I am waiting for his SSN. If I do it through ebenefits to get an earlier start date, can put the SSN in later?

    Regards, James

    • To be honest, I’m not positive, James. My recommendation is to make the claims request with all the information complete at the time you make the request. There is a serious backlog processing these claims and you want to have everything complete so your claim isn’t rejected. (by serious backlog, I’ve heard stories of some claims taking well over two years to complete, even with all claims information complete at the time it was submitted). Don’t give the VA a reason to deny your claim, or place it back on the processing pile. Best of luck!

  39. Ryan, I filled out the VA Form 21-686c to add my son as a dependent back on May 31 2012. It is now July 1 2014 and I still have not gotten my son added onto my disability compensation. Every time I have called to ask questions I have to leave a message so the VA can call me back at a later date. Is there a good number to call to discuss dependent status claims? I appreciate your time.

    • Johnie, it is taking some people at least two years to receive word of their claim. Hopefully your claim will be resolved soon. AS for a call-in number, I don’t have one, other than the standard 1-800 number. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  40. Hello all. I filed a dependency claim in May 2013 and Ebenefits still says it is under review. I contacted my V.A. rep and he told me to file a new claim on Ebenefits. I have since filed a new claim and it got approved in 1 day. My question is will I get back pay for the claim I filed in 2013 or since I filed a new claim will I not receive any back pay? Thanks!

    • Drew, Congrats on getting your claim approved – it has taken some people over two years to get a claim approved, so a claim approval in one day is amazingly fast! Normally you will receive back pay from the date of your initial claim request. However, they may not consider your first claim since it was your second claim that was approved. You may need to contact the VA to ensure they have the date of record for your initial claim. You should be able to fight this if it isn’t approved, but you may need to enlist the assistance of a Veterans Service Officer. Here are some recommendations of groups that offer free assistance from VSO’s.

      Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  41. Ryan,

    Thanks for all that you do. I just recently found out that you receive more pay for dependents. I’ve been married for exactly 3 years, with 1 step son who is 6 and a son who is almost 2. I just submitted my claim today. Will I receive backpay to the time I was married? Thanky you!

    • Shane, thanks for sending in your question. Typically, back pay is only good back to the date you originally filed your claim. There are times when they will back date the claim before your filing date, but usually not more than a couple months. An example would be when you have a child and need to wait a month or so to get the required paperwork, such as the child’s Social Security Number. A similar example could be made for awaiting a marriage certificate. The key is to file as soon as you can.

      Right now some claims are taking over two years to be processed (and some are being processed within a week; it depends on your region, the complexity of your claim, and other factors). If your claim is approved several months from now (or longer) they will back date your pay to the date of the claim. In your case, it’s possible your claim will only be backdated to the date you made the claim, or possibly a short amount before that. It’s unlikely they will backdate your pay the full three years unless you can provide a reason for the delay.

  42. Thanks Ryan. I have been service connected since 2006. But I just added my wife and dependents. So I was optimistic they would backpay me for the time I was married and hadn’t notified them. Thanks.

  43. I had submitted my claim 8/1/2013 to RE-instate my child (1 (graduated high school and going to collage)) on my claim, it has been a a year now and nothing! My child is starting her second year in collage and still nothing! I get a different answer from these people every time I call ( all Lies!). its now 8/1/2014 and still nothing……all I can say is, its a good thing I served all these years fighting for these peoples rights to jerk around and lie to a disabled Vet!

  44. I submitted my disability claim 8/26/2013 with the VA and after almost a year 8/19/2014 my claim was finally complete (or so i thought). I was given a rating of 30% but only receiving pay for the single persons rate. So after i realized this i finally found the application to add dependents.

    First. Why in the world would I have to file a separate application to show that I am married and have dependents when they are clearly listed in DEERS, and I am sure many other places that the VA has access to?

    Second. Because I filled out an application 8/25/2014 for dependency does this mean i will only be back paid from this date or will back pay be awarded from my original compensation date of 8/26/2013 like it should be?

  45. We filed paperwork to add me as a dependent to my husband’s disability claim in August 2012. I never did change my name through social security. Will that delay the claim? Lord knows we have already waited long enough. Also, we contacted our congressman who said that it might be possible for me to receive champva benefits and also school compensation while we wait, providing I file the paperwork. Is there any truth in this? Thank you for any help you can offer.

    • Vera,

      To be honest, I don’t know if not changing your name will cause any issues. Regarding additional compensation such as CHAMP VA or education benefits, I can’t really answer that. Your best bet is to visit a veterans benefits counselor in person to go over all the benefits you may be eligible to receive. This is the only way someone can give you specific answers to your queries.

      The good news is there are many organizations that offer free assistance for veterans benefits claims and they should be able to answer your questions. Here is a link to some of those Veterans Service Organizations. Best of luck!

  46. So finally in August after my congressman chewed the VA out and two years later my dependants were changed and I was back paid. I wish Obama would take care of his veterans first before the illegal aliens. So wait 2 years and call a congressional and you can get two flicks of a switch from the VA.

  47. David Dittiger says:

    I am getting full custody of two of my grandchildren. Can I add them as dependents to increase my disability compensation income? Also can I add them to DEERS for my Tricare health insurance so they can be seen by same doctors as my wife and children?

  48. My husband and I are separated and have been since he joined the military. We do not have any legal paper work and I still receive Tricare and am listed as his wife in DEERS. We have a 6 year old son. We live in 2 different states. He was hurt last year and got back his second offer of 0%navy 80%VA. He sent it back. My question is are me and my son entitled to anything and if so how would I find out. As he keeps me in the dark about everything. I’m not sure he listed me as a spouse idk how it works. Thanks

  49. I may add my son lives with me and always has. My husband also gives a mutual agreed allotment amount to my bank account

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