TDIU, or Total Disability Individual Unemployability, is a benefit that the VA offers to veterans who are incapable of securing and maintaining substantially gainful employment.
In other words, if you can’t work because of your disabilities (even if they’re only as high as a 60% VA rating or 70% VA rating), you may be able to get TDIU which is the equivalent to a 100% VA disability rating.
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) and answer the following questions:
- What is a TDIU?
- How do I qualify for TDIU?
- How much does the VA pay for TDIU?
- What are the VA income limits for TDIU in 2023?
- How do I apply for TDIU?
- What benefits are available with TDIU?
- Is a TDIU rating permanent?
- Can I work while receiving TDIU?
What is a TDIU?
If you are unable to work due to a disability related to your military service (known as a service-connected disability), you may qualify for Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU).
This program provides disability compensation or unemployability benefits equivalent to those given to veterans with a 100% disability rating.
TDIU offers support to veterans who cannot secure employment due to their service-connected disabilities.
How do I qualify for TDIU?
Here’s what is required in order for you to receive TDIU:
You have a service connected disability.
- To be eligible for TDIU, you must have at least one service-connected disability rated at 60% or higher.
- Alternatively, if you have two or more service-connected disabilities, one of them must be rated at 40% or higher, and your combined disability rating should be 70% or higher.
You are unable to hold steady employment.
- TDIU considers your ability to secure and maintain a steady job that provides financial support.
- If your service-connected disability prevents you from obtaining substantially gainful employment, meaning you can’t hold down a job that supports you financially, you meet this condition.
You have a discharge status other than dishonorable.
- Having any discharge status other than dishonorable is a requirement for TDIU eligibility.
- If you were not dishonorably discharged, you can proceed with your TDIU application.
It’s important to note that a disabled veteran with a paying job may still qualify for TDIU.
Marginal employment, such as occasional odd jobs, is not considered substantially gainful employment.
However, the income earned must be below the federal poverty level to maintain eligibility for TDIU.
What does schedular mean for VA disability?
A schedular rating, when applying for disability compensation, helps determine the amount of money you will receive.
To learn more about schedular vs. extraschedular ratings, see our blog post below.
What does TDIU pay?
The amount of money and unemployability benefits you will receive from the VA for a Total Disability Individual Unemployability rating depends on how many dependents you have.
For a single veteran with no dependent in 2023, they receive $3,621.95 per month in TDIU benefits.
That’s the same amount a veteran with a 100% disability rating receives.
If you are married with children, each additional dependent will increase your payment by hundreds of dollars a month.
Check out our VA compensation rates page for more information.
How do I apply for TDIU?
Veterans can apply for TDIU in any of the following ways:
- Via fax or mail; or
- In person at your local VA office; or
- with help from an accredited representative
To apply for TDIU, you must complete VA Form 21-8940, Veteran’s Application Based on Unemployability.
For more comprehensive information on how to fill out this form, check out our guide below.
What benefits can I get from TDIU?
Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) is a disability benefit program offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that provides financial support and individual unemployability benefit to veterans who are unable to secure or maintain gainful employment as a result of their service-connected disabilities.
Here are some of the TDIU benefit veterans can receive:
- Tax-Free Monthly Payments: tax-free monthly payments that are equal to the VA’s 100% disability compensation rate.
- Health Care Benefits: health care benefits through the VA, including medical treatment, prescriptions, and hospitalization.
- Education and Training: education and training assistance, such as vocational rehabilitation and employment services.
- Dependents’ Educational Assistance: educational assistance VA benefit.
- Special Monthly Compensation: special monthly compensation (SMC) if they have additional disabilities or need aid and attendance.
Tax-Free Monthly Payments
The tax-free monthly payments provided through TDIU are meant to compensate veterans for their inability to work and earn an income due to their service-connected disabilities.
The amount of the monthly payments depends on the veteran’s disability rating and the number of dependents they have.
The VA updates the payment rates annually to adjust for inflation.
One of the key benefits of TDIU is that the payments are tax-free.
This means that veterans do not have to pay federal income tax on the payments they receive.
Additionally, some states may also exempt TDIU payments from state income tax.
Health Care Benefits
Veterans who receive TDIU benefits are eligible for health care benefits through the VA. This includes medical treatment, prescriptions, and hospitalization.
Eligibility for health care benefits is determined by the veteran’s service-connected disability rating, which is assigned by the VA based on the severity of their service-connected disabilities.
TDIU beneficiaries are eligible for the same health care benefits as veterans who are rated at 100% disability by the VA.
This means that TDIU beneficiaries are eligible for comprehensive medical care, including preventive care, primary care, specialty care, and mental health care.
TDIU beneficiaries are also eligible for prescription drug coverage, which includes both brand-name and generic medications.
In addition to medical care, TDIU beneficiaries are also eligible for long-term care services, such as nursing home care and assisted living.
The VA provides a range of long-term care services to eligible veterans, including in-home care, community care, and nursing home care.
Education and Training Benefits
The VA offers several education and training programs for veterans, including the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program.
TDIU beneficiaries may be eligible for these programs, depending on their individual circumstances and needs.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides financial assistance to veterans who served on or after September 11, 2001, and who have at least 90 days of active-duty service.
The GI Bill provides funding for tuition and fees, a housing allowance, and a stipend for books and supplies.
TDIU beneficiaries may be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill if they meet the eligibility requirements and are pursuing a degree or other approved educational program.
The VR&E program provides education and training assistance to veterans with service-connected disabilities who need help preparing for, finding, and keeping suitable employment.
The program offers a range of services, including vocational counseling, rehabilitation planning, job training, and job search assistance.
TDIU beneficiaries may be eligible for the VR&E program if they have a service-connected disability that makes it difficult for them to work, and if they need education or training to obtain suitable employment.
What are VA unemployability benefits for dependents?
The dependents of TDIU recipients may also be eligible for benefits, known as the Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA) program, which provides education and training benefits to the dependents of certain disabled veterans.
The DEA program provides education and training assistance to the children and spouses of veterans who have a service-connected disability rated as totally and permanently disabling, or who died as a result of a service-connected disability.
Eligible dependents may receive up to 45 months of education and training benefits, which can be used to pursue a degree, certificate, apprenticeship, or other approved educational program.
TDIU beneficiaries may be eligible for the DEA program if their service-connected disability is rated as totally and permanently disabling.
If the veteran has more than one dependent, each dependent is eligible for up to 45 months of benefits.
The DEA program provides financial assistance for tuition and fees, a monthly housing allowance, and a stipend for books and supplies.
It’s important to note that TDIU beneficiaries must apply for DEA benefits on behalf of their dependents.
To apply for DEA benefits, veterans should complete and submit VA Form 22-5490, Dependents’ Application for VA Education Benefits, to the VA.
Special Monthly Compensation Benefits
TDIU beneficiaries may also be eligible for Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) benefits, which provide additional financial assistance for veterans with severe disabilities.
The VA offers several types of SMC benefits, including the following:
- Aid and Attendance (A&A): A&A is a benefit that provides additional financial assistance to veterans who require the aid and attendance of another person in order to perform activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and feeding.
- Housebound: Housebound is a an individual unemployability benefit that provides additional financial assistance to veterans who are confined to their homes due to their service-connected disabilities.
- Loss or loss of use of a limb: Veterans who have lost or lost the use of a limb as a result of their service-connected disability may be eligible for additional financial assistance through SMC.
- Loss of use of an organ: Veterans who have lost the use of an organ, such as a kidney or lung, as a result of their service-connected disability may be eligible for additional financial assistance through SMC.
- Need for regular aid and attendance: Veterans who require regular aid and attendance from another person due to their service-connected disability may be eligible for additional financial assistance through SMC.
Is TDIU permanent?
While TDIU benefits are not always permanent, there are instances where they may become permanent.
What are the indications of permanent TDIU benefits?
The VA may indicate that your TDIU benefits are permanent in your rating decision.
This is done in different ways:
- “Permanent and Total” (P&T) Box: Your form may have a specific box labeled “Permanent and Total” (P&T) that is checked.
- No Further Exams: The form may state that no further examinations are scheduled, indicating the permanency of your benefits.
- Eligibility for Additional Benefits: The letter you receive may mention your eligibility for Chapter 35 DEA or CHAMPVA benefits, which can signify the permanent nature of your TDIU benefits.
How can my TDIU benefits become permanent over time?
Even if your TDIU benefits are initially temporary, there are circumstances in which they may become permanent.
- Age Requirement: If you are 70 years or older, your temporary TDIU benefits can transition to permanent status.
- 20 Years or More: If you have received TDIU benefits for 20 years or more consecutively, they may become permanent.
Is TDIU the same as 100% disabled? Is it hard to get approved for TDIU?
Veterans receiving Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits receive compensation at the same rate as those who have been rated 100% disabled. However, it’s generally easier to be approved for TDIU benefits than to receive a 100% rating under the VA’s schedular criteria.
Can I get TDIU benefits if I am 100% disabled?
You cannot get TDIU if you are 100 percent disabled by the VA. However, you will be receiving the highest monthly compensation possible with either one.
There is no real difference in the monetary benefits you will receive.
The VA rating of 100 percent means that the VA feels your diagnosis and medical evidence warranted you receiving the maximum amount of benefits.
TDIU is available to veterans who did not qualify for the schedular 100 percent rating, but are unable to maintain substantially gainful employment due to their service-connected disabilities.
Can I work while receiving TDIU?
If you’re a veteran receiving Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits, it means you have service-related medical conditions that prevent you from holding down a regular job and earning a substantial income.
However, there are circumstances where veterans can still earn income while receiving these benefits, including marginal employment and ‘odd jobs.’
What qualifies as marginal employment and ‘odd jobs?’
Veterans receiving TDIU benefits can engage in what’s called “marginal employment” or work odd jobs.
Marginal employment refers to jobs that are not considered substantial or do not provide significant earnings.
This type of employment is permitted while receiving TDIU benefits, allowing veterans to earn income through occasional or part-time work.
It’s important to note that engaging in marginal employment or odd jobs should not exceed the level of substantial gainful employment.
By adhering to the guidelines for marginal employment, veterans can balance their financial needs while continuing to receive TDIU benefits.
To learn more about marginal and sheltered employment, and working with 100% disability benefits, check out our comprehensive guides below.
I don’t meet the VA’s TDIU Percentages, should I give up on qualifying for VA TDIU?
VA regulations provide that a veteran who has a single disability rated at 60% or more should be considered for unemployability benefits.
Similarly, a veteran who has a single disability rated at 40% or more, with a combination of disabilities totaling 70% or higher should also be considered for VA TDIU.
These percentages just mean that VA should automatically consider a veteran who reaches that level of disability and look at whether the veteran is unemployable.
There is a second part to the VA’s TDIU benefit regulation.
If a veteran’s service-connected disabilities prevent the veteran from getting or keeping substantially gainful employment, even if those disabilities do not meet the 60% or 40/70% thresholds, that veteran can still be considered for TDIU and should request that consideration.
Cases where the veteran does not meet the percentage requirements are more difficult to win, but that is no reason not to pursue them.
Are you considering appealing for TDIU benefits? We may be able to help you with your TDIU claim. Fill out a case evaluation form for more information.
Additional TDIU Resources
In this detailed blog post, we explore the significance of Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) back pay for disabled veterans.
We cover topics such as effective dates, inferred IU, and filing Form 21-8940 for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability.
This comprehensive guide highlights five crucial mistakes to avoid when applying for Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Frequently Asked Questions about TDIU
What does substantially gainful mean?
The VA uses this term to mean employment for which the veteran is earning above the poverty level.
The poverty guidelines for 2016 indicate that a person earning less than $11, 880 is earning below the poverty level.
Of interest, VA regulations indicate that sheltered employment, such as self-employment or working for a family member in a position from which you cannot be fired, does not count as substantially gainful employment.
What does it mean to secure and follow a job?
Basically, these terms just clarify that a veteran is entitled to TDIU if his service-connected disabilities prevent him or her from getting a job and/or if those disabilities prevent him or her from keeping a job.
While some physical disabilities such as knee or back problems would be obvious at an interview and might prevent a veteran from getting a job, other disabilities, such as PTSD , might not show up at an interview.
A veteran with a service-connected mental disability might have no trouble getting jobs, but keeping a job, with symptoms such as impaired anger management, depression, or an inability to get along with others, is much easier said than done.
Both the inability to get a job and the inability to keep a job would qualify a veteran for TDIU.
How much can I make and still receive TDIU Benefits?
When it comes to Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits, veterans often wonder how much they can earn and still qualify.
The good news is that veterans can receive TDIU benefits even if they are working, as long as their income falls below certain thresholds.
As of January 2022, the federal poverty threshold for a single person is $13,590.
This means that veterans who earn less than this amount can still be eligible for TDIU benefits.
However, it’s important to note that if the veteran has dependents, the income limits may be higher.
To provide a clearer understanding of the income limits, here is a breakdown of the poverty thresholds based on the number of people in the household:
|People per Household||Poverty Threshold|
As shown in the table, the income thresholds increase as the number of people in the household grows.
Veterans with dependents may have higher income limits, allowing them to earn more and still be eligible for TDIU benefits.
It’s worth noting that these income limits are subject to change, so it’s essential to stay updated with the latest information from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Additionally, meeting the income requirements is just one aspect of qualifying for TDIU benefits.
Veterans must also provide evidence of service-connected disabilities that significantly impair their ability to secure and maintain substantial gainful employment.
Can I combine ratings for TDIU?
Yes, it is possible to combine ratings for TDIU.
When combining ratings, the VA uses a specific calculation called the Combined Ratings Table.
This table provides a method to determine the combined disability rating based on the individual ratings for each service-connected disability.
The table takes into account the severity of each disability and provides a combined rating that represents the overall impact on the veteran’s ability to work.
What is the 70 40 rule for VA disability?
Veterans with two or more service connected conditions must have at least one condition rated at or above 40%. The combined ratings of the disabilities must be at least equal to 70%.
If the Social Security Administration (SSA) has found me totally disabled, why doesn’t the VA do the same?
This is an issue which frustrates many veterans.
How can one government agency determine that a veteran cannot work while another says that he or she can?
VA and SSA are operating under different standards.
For a veteran to qualify for TDIU from the VA, the issue is whether his service-connected conditions, alone, prevent the veteran from working.
SSA does not separate out service-connected and non-service-connected conditions in its considerations.
For example, a veteran who is service connected only for PTSD may also have other, non-service-connected conditions, such as a lumbar spine disability.
SSA might find that the veteran is disabled due to the lumbar spine condition only or due to the combination of the disabilities.
VA, however, cannot grant TDIU to a veteran whose inability to work is caused by non-service connected conditions.
A common mistake made by the VA, though, is that the VA sometimes recognizes that the SSA has determined total disability by considering non-service-connected conditions but forgets to complete the analysis and determine whether the veteran would still be totally disabled if he or she did not have the non-service-connected conditions.
Just because a veteran is totally disabled by his non-service-connected lumbar condition does not mean that he is not equally disabled by his service-connected PTSD.
The veteran could, and often does, have more than one condition which, on its own, would prevent the veteran from working.
Can I receive TDIU and social security?
Yes, you can receive the full amount for each program, so long as you meet the eligibility requirements.
You must apply to each program separately, applying for one does not immediately qualify you for the other.
However, if you applied for SSDI before TDIU, the VA may request copies of the medical evidence you presented to the SSA.
Remember that while the SSA considers any type of disability, the VA only pays benefits for service-related disabilities.
This means you may have a more challenging time applying for TDIU benefits than SSDI, especially if the VA does not see a service-connection condition on your application for SSDI.
Can The VA Take Away TDIU?
Before the VA reduces a disability rating, they are required to provide you with prior notice of the proposed notice of reduction.
If the VA does not follow the rules and regulations when proposing a reduction, the reduction is considered void and unlawful.
If the VA has determined that your current disability rating warrants reduction, they must first issue a notice of proposed reduction.
This first notice gives you 60 days to submit evidence to show that your condition has not improved.
You also have an option to request a pre-determination hearing within 30 days of the notice.
Requesting a hearing may buy you additional time to submit evidence.
What If You Start Working While Receiving TDIU?
If you’re receiving TDIU and start working again, you should notify the VA of your change in employment.
Remember, the VA is going to look into a few factors.
They’ll look into:
- How much money you’re making
- How long you’ve had the job
- What accommodations your workplace provides
- Your specific disability
These factors determine whether you need TDIU.
If you’re receiving TDIU and are making a substantial income, you could end up owing the VA money.
This is because the VA may claim they have been overpaying you benefits.
So, it’s always best to notify the VA if you begin working again.
Is there protection from proposed reductions?
There are several protections set forth in the regulations against a proposed reduction.
One of those protections is for 100% VA disability ratings when based on unemployability (IU or TDIU).
If a veteran stopped working as a result of their service-connected disability, then that veteran may be entitled to 100% rating based on unemployability.
The VA has the burden to demonstrate that actual employability has been established by clear and convincing evidence for them to reduce or sever TDIU. This is a very high burden to meet.
Even if you are working, you are allowed to keep your TDIU for a full year.
However, in cases where the veteran has not returned to work, then the VA has to have really good evidence to discontinue TDIU.
Under the regulations, if the VA determines that the veteran has sustained improvement and that such improvement warrants reduction of a TDIU rating, but the record reflects that the veteran is unable to engage in substantial gainful employment, then TDIU must be preserved.
In other words, in cases where your disability has materially improved, your TDIU rating can still be protected from reduction if the evidence shows that you are unable to work due to your service-connected disability.
Have questions about appealing your claim or understanding how the claims process works?
The attorneys at Hill & Ponton are here to support you with appealing a claim.
If you are intending to appeal a denied claim, you can contact us for an evaluation and we can help you with this process.
However, if you are considering filing an initial claim, or even if you are interested in learning about the appeals process, we offer a free ebook to get you started on the right foot!
The Road to VA Compensation Benefits will help break down the claims process from start to finish. Click the link below to learn more.
We are sorry that this post was not as useful for you!
Help us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?