Claims for “total disability on the basis of individual unemployability” or TDIU continue to be on the rise as more and more veterans are being diagnosed with a number of diseases and conditions that result in an inability to work. And a veteran’s inability to work can result in an inability to support their families, or simply themselves. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers disability benefits to support these veterans and their families.
What is TDIU?
Total Disability on the basis of Individual Unemployability (TDIU) is being unable to engage in substantially gainful employment as a result of service connected conditions.
But how do you know if you’re eligible for TDIU?
Former service members must meet several requirements to be eligible for this type of veterans disability compensation. We will discuss these requirements more in detail below.
Who Is Eligible for TDIU?
Veterans who are eligible for individual unemployability benefits are unable to engage in substantially gainful employment as a result of service connected conditions where “gainful employment” is defined as the ability to hold a job paying an amount greater than or equal to the poverty level set by the federal government. This occurs when an injury or illness hinders a veteran’s ability to work.
When people talk about the “poverty level” they are usually referring to the Federal poverty guidelines. This definition is issued annually by the Department of Health and Human Services and is used to determine who does or does not receive federal subsidies. In other words, who is poor and eligible for assistance from the Federal Government versus who is not eligible. For 2020, the poverty level for which a veteran must be working under is $12,760.
In order to qualify for TDIU benefits, certain conditions must be met; however, that doesn’t mean that all veterans meeting the requirements will instantly qualify for VA disability benefits. In fact, and from personal experience, this process can be daunting due to the many hoops that one must jump through. Add to that the math (a topic for another day) used to determine his or her disability rating.
What Is the Criteria for VA Unemployability?
The VA uses this criteria when assessing a disabled veteran’s employability for a TDIU claim:
- Veterans with only 1 service connected condition must be rated >/= 60%;
- Veterans with 2 or more service connected conditions – at least 1 condition must be rated >/= 40% with a combined rating >/= 70%;
- For both scenarios, veterans must be unemployable due to service connected conditions.
To establish entitlement for TDIU benefits, both evidence of unemployment due to a service connected condition AND support documentation from a medical professional must be obtained. Veterans applying for this type of compensation must fill out VA form 21-8940 and 21-4192 with their claim. This, however, is only the beginning of what could be a long and arduous journey to attaining 100% disability compensation from the VA.
What if I’m working and apply for IU?
It should also be noted that Veterans with paying jobs are not necessarily disqualified for an IU rating. The key, however, is that all income earned from employment must be at or below the poverty level as stated above, or from a job that is considered to be “protected”. This marginal and sheltered employment is the exception to the rules for IU qualification.
However, it’s important to note that this total disability rating isn’t always permanent. The veteran may have to undergo periodic medical exams to substantiate the continuation of the veterans’ benefits. The VA does have the ability to determine that a veteran is no longer eligible for TDIU if they are able to work again. This is one of the main ways that TDIU is different from a 100% VA disability rating for a specific condition.
It doesn’t seem fair that those who served our country, many of whom now suffer from a variety of physical or mental disabilities, have to undergo such a grueling process to receive benefits. Add to that the time constraints for receiving such benefits that could ultimately be lost should their condition improve. An old comic strip from the 50’s sums it up perfectly…”There Oughta Be a Law”!
Have Questions About TDIU? Schedule a Free Consultation with Hill & Ponton
If the VA has denied your disability claim for Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability, the veterans disability attorneys at Hill & Ponton can help. Our veterans law firm has years of experience navigating the veterans administration and VA regulations. We also focus on social security disability law. Your disability lawyer can support and represent you through the VA claims or appeals process, prioritizing the attorney-client relationship along the way. Contact us today to get started.
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