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.

  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.

    • 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?

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