Often times, when a veteran is applying for VA disability benefits, they are unable to work. VA calls this unable to sustain a substantial gainful employment. This can be very frustrating. Especially when VA appeals process is quite challenging. VA offers Individual Unemployability (IU) benefits or Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (IU). VA can pay veterans the 100% rate when their service-connected disabilities aren’t rated as 100% disabling through this benefit.
Eligibility and Required Evidence
A veteran must meet a certain eligibility criterion before getting IU. The eligibility criterion is as follows:
- You must be a veteran
- You must have at least one service-connected disability rated at 60% or higher
- Or have two or more service-connected disabilities with one being at least one disability rated at 40% or more with a combines rating of 70% or more
- You must be unable to maintain substantially gainful employment as a result of service-connected disabilities
A veteran show evidence one or more service-connected disabilities prevent him from working. VA looks to see if the veteran can perform the mental and/or physical tasks that he would need to do to. Importantly, VA does not consider marginal employment— such as odd or side jobs—as gainful employment for VA purposes.
Substantially Gainful Employment and Sheltered Work
What is substantially gainful employment? It is employment that proves a wage greater than the poverty level. For a single person, as of 2016, the poverty threshold is close to $12,500. This comes from the U.S. Census Bureau. Simply put, if the veteran’s earnings are less than the threshold, then they are not considered to be gainfully employed.
A veteran can work and get IU benefits. The VA does recognize that some jobs are “sheltered work.” This is a protected employment or a work environment providing special accommodations to the veteran. The employer would not give accommodations to any other employee.
Do you wonder if you work in a sheltered environment? Ask yourself if you were to leave your current position, would your employer replace your current position? Is your current position created just for you and your disabilities?
Something to keep in mind would be that this benefit is not for veterans who are going to temporarily out of work.
Applying for Individual Unemployability Benefits
The first step is completing the VA Form 21-8940: Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability. You can find this form here. Along with this form, a veteran should submit evidence to help prove the claim. The VA will most likely obtain a C&P exam. The C&P examiner will opine as to whether you can work. If the C&P examiner decides you can work then you should get an outside medical opinion. You will probably also have to appeal. Do not give up just because the first decision denies you.