Individual Unemployability – What is it, and which veterans are eligible?

I’m a disabled veteran and cannot work, but the VA won’t give me a 100% rating. What can I do? Individual Unemployability, short for Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU), is a part of VA’s disability compensation program that allows the VA to pay certain Veterans disability compensation at the 100% rate, even though the VA has not rated their service-connected disabilities at the total level. Only certain disabled veterans are eligible for TDIU, however. Simply being unable to work is not enough.

There are 3 requirements:

  • Your disability must be service connected.
  • Your disabilities must already be rated at a certain level. (You must have one disability rated at 60% or more, or two disabilities combined for a 70% or more rating, at least one of which is rated at 40% or more).
  • You must be unable to maintain full-time employment that provides earnings above the poverty level.

It is possible that a veteran could still get TDIU benefits if she does not fit the above requirements perfectly. This only happens, however, when the veteran’s situation is so unusual and exceptional that applying the normal TDIU requirements is impractical.

What won’t the VA consider when determining if a veteran qualifies for TDIU?

The VA cannot take into consideration the veteran’s age, any nonservice-connected disabilities, injuries occurring after military service, whether work is available, or whether the veteran voluntarily withdrew from the employment market. This means that if you cannot find work because you are older, or the region where you live has a struggling job market, this alone will not qualify you for TDIU.

How is TDIU different from 100% ratings?

If a veteran receives a 100% disability rating, it is because her disability or combined disabilities are rated at 100% based on the ratings tables. However, a veteran with TDIU will not have a rating or combined rating of 100% based on the tables. Her actual rating based on the tables will be less than 100%.  However, the veteran with TDIU will receive the same payment as the veteran with a 100% disability rating based on the individual, exceptional impact her disabilities have on her ability to work.

How do I apply for TDIU?

To apply for TDIU, you must complete VA Form 21-8940. Though it is possible to have your case considered for TDIU without filing that form, a VA employee must identify and pursue this avenue on their own after reviewing your records. There is no guarantee this would happen, therefore, if you believe you are eligible for TDIU, you must complete VA Form 21-8940.

If you are unable to work because of your service-connected disabilities and have questions about whether you should apply for TDIU, consider talking to a VA Accredited attorney about your case.

Author: Kathryn L. Blevins, Esq.

Attorney. Small business owner. Military family. I am the owner and attorney at Blevins Law, LLC. My firm focuses on Social Security disability claims (SSI and SSDI), Veterans' Disability Compensation, Advance Medical Directives and medical and financial powers of attorney. I also assist veterans assessing other types of VA benefits they may be eligible for. I am licensed in Maryland and Washington, D.C., and am a VA Accredited Attorney. I am the proud wife of an Army veteran, and the proud mother of two amazing children and three rescued fur children.

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