Individual Unemployability is often times the main goal for many veterans who are filing for disability. Total Disability for Individual Unemployment (TDIU or simply, IU), is a disability rating granted by the VA where you receive compensation at the 100% rating level, even if your combined rating for service connected disabilities is less than 100%. This rating is decided by the VA after considering a few different factors and determining that an individual is unable to maintain employment due to their service connected disability.
Am I Eligible for Individual Unemployability?
In order to begin receiving compensation for IU, there are certain requirements that must be met.
- You must be a veteran
- IU entitlement is not authorized for dependents receiving or filing a claim for DIC
- You must have a service connected disability that you are currently receiving compensation for
- If you only have one service connected disability, you must be rated at 60% or higher
- If you have more than one service connected disability, your combined rating must be at least 70% with one individual disability rating of at least 40%
- You must be found to be unable to maintain gainful employment due to your service connected disability
- The VA will not take into account any issue that is not service connected when determining your eligibility
What is Gainful Employment?
Gainful employment is competitive employment in which your yearly earnings are greater than the national poverty threshold. This threshold changes on a yearly basis and is dependent upon the size of your household. If you are part of a single person or a double person household, your age is also taken into account. For example, in 2016, for a single person household, under the age of 65, the poverty threshold was $12,486. For a three person household, with one child under 18, the poverty level was $19,318.
So, am I not able to work at all to be able to receive IU?
With every rule, especially the VA rules, there is always some sort of exception. Two exceptions to the strict requirements to obtain benefits based on IU are working in a sheltered environment and maintaining marginal employment.
- Sheltered work environment
- If you are working for a family member or another individual in which you are protected from being fired
- If you are in a position where you are protected from certain requirements that other employees must fulfill for the same position
- Marginal employment
- You are working but are earning less than the national poverty threshold outlined for your household size
What if I am not Service Connected for a Disability or have a High Enough Rating?
One of the main requirements to be granted IU is that you must be service connected for the disability that is preventing you from working. The VA, unlike Social Security, will only take into account any service connected disabilities. With that being said, many veterans are currently in the appeals process to get their disabilities service connected or receive a higher rating. If this is your situation, you should still submit your application for IU; VA Form 21-8940. We all know how drawn out the VA process can be for granting benefits. Therefore, as soon as you become too disabled to work, submit your application to lock into place your effective date for TDIU benefits. With the VA, it is all about maintaining your effective date of award, whether it is an initial claim or a claim for IU.
Say you filed a claim for service connection for a back condition in 2010 and were forced to stop working because of it, and could not obtain gainful employment. You have gone through the appeals process and now, in 2017, you are finally being granted your service connection compensation at 80%, effective back to 2010. If you had filed a VA 21-8940 within a year of becoming unable to work due to your back, and the VA agrees that your inability to work is due to your service connected disability, you may receive 100% compensation back to 2010, instead of only 80%!
The same is true if you are appealing for an increased rating. Once you are at the minimum rating to be considered eligible for IU, as long as you have submitted a VA 21-8940, your effective date for IU may go back to the effective date of your increased rating award. For some veteran’s however, they only have one service connected disability and the highest rating for the particular disability does not go to 100%. For example, migraines have a maximum rating of 50%. In situations like this, where your disability prevents you from working but you cannot reach the 70% rating level, your case should be sent to the Director of Compensation and Pension to allow them to determine your eligibility.
The VA 21-8940 can be a confusing form to fill out, so if you need any assistance, please refer to our Tips to Filling out the VA 21-8940.