TDIU benefits are granted when you are considered unable to secure substantially gainful employment as a result of your service-connected disability. You are given a rating for each service connected disability, ranging from 0% to 100%, and each corresponding to a different monetary value. But even if your disability is not rated at 100%, you can still receive benefits as if you were rated at 100% through TDIU. The idea is to show that your service connected disability prevents you from securing substantially gainful employment. For more details on what that means, click here. Now let’s look at how one would qualify for TDIU.
There are two ways to qualify for TDIU. The first is the common and more accessible way of meeting the percentage requirements. The second option is far more rare and difficult to attain, and it is known as extraschedular consideration.
The first method has its own two-step analysis.
Step 1: Do you meet the percentage requirements?
The VA regulation authorizing TDIU requires that your service connected disability has to satisfy percentage requirements:
- If you have only one service connected disability, that disability must be rated at 60% or higher.
- If you have more than one service-connected disability, you must have a combined rating of 70% or higher, and at least one of those disabilities must be rated at 40%.
For the purposes of calculating the percentage requirements, there are rules to determine what it means to have “one disability” that could help you meet the required percentage.
The following are considered to be “one disability”:
- Disabilities of one or both upper extremities, or one or both lower extremities (including the bilateral factor);
- Disabilities resulting from a common etiology, or a single accident;
- Disabilities affecting a single body system (for example, orthopedic, digestive, respiratory, neuropsychiatric);
- Multiple injuries incurred in action, or;
- Multiple disabilities incurred as a prisoner of war.
An example would be if you suffer from several service-connected heart disabilities, such as congestive heart failure and hypertension, both of these would be considered one disability because they affect a single body system. So if together they are “one disability” rated at 60%, you qualify for TDIU.
Once you meet one of the requirements stated above, you move on to the second part of the analysis.
Step 2: Are you able to secure substantially gainful employment?
The second step is determining whether you are prevented from securing or following a substantially gainful occupation because of the service-connected disabilities that meet the percentage requirements stated above. Even if you meet the percentage requirements as stated above, if you are working, you show that you are able to secure substantially gainful employment, thus you do not qualify for TDIU. There are exceptions to this though, such as marginal and sheltered employment. But if you can show that you cannot secure substantially gainful employment, you are entitled to TDIU.
What if you are a veteran who does not meet the percentage requirements described above? Can you still qualify for TDIU? This is where that second far more rare method we mentioned earlier comes in. If you are a veteran who is unable to work due to service-connected disabilities but do not meet the rating requirements, you may still be awarded a TDIU rating on an extraschedular basis.
This second method exists because the TDIU regulation states that it is the established policy of the VA that all veterans who are unemployable because of service connected disabilities shall be rated totally disabled. This would mean that if you are able to show you that you cannot work because of your service-connected disability, but you don’t qualify for TDIU because of the percentage requirements, the VA may completely put the ratings aside and still grant you TDIU if they think you deserve it. What the VA is looking for to grant such a case is “a finding that the case presents such an exceptional or unusual disability picture with such related factors as marked interference with employment or frequent periods of hospitalization as to render impractical the application of the regular schedular standards.”
This, however, is not as easy as it sounds. Extraschedular cases are not handled by the VA regional office, like every other claim for compensation. Instead, the VA regional office refers these cases to the VA Central Office located in Washington D.C. Once there, the Director of the Compensation Service determines whether the veteran is entitled to the benefit in each case. This entire process is known as extraschedular consideration.
Extraschedular consideration has this special procedure in place because these types of cases are supposed to be very rare. The VA Central Office rarely grants benefits under these conditions. But if TDIU is at issue, and you do not qualify under the schedular rating by meeting the percentage requriements, the VA has to consider whether you are entitled to TDIU through extraschedular consideration.