Process To Prove VA Individual Unemployability
VA Individual Unemployability Process: Many veterans returning from active duty find it difficult to resume civilian life. They may struggle with everything from reintegrating into a family, to grocery shopping, to going to work. And working may not be difficult because a veteran has difficulty finding a new job, or is having trouble readjusting to the rhythms of a workplace very different from a service unit. The veteran may simply be unable to work.
This inability to work isn’t because the veteran lacks hustle or the latest computer software training. Instead, the veteran may be plagued by a service-related disability or even disabilities that makes working at most jobs difficult or impossible.
The problems the veteran could be suffering from might be psychological, such as panic attacks or mood swings. They could be physical, such as sudden, blinding headaches that come on without warning. Or sudden, uncontrollable shaking of hands or feet. Or these problems could be a combination of both.
“That’s terrible!” many people would say. “It’s a good thing that the military takes care of its own!” And indeed, the Department of Veterans Affairs does have a disability compensation program to provide financial support to veterans disabled by illness and injury in the course of active service.
But the VA doesn’t view all disability equally. It determines disability on a scale from 0-100, with a disability rating of 100 indicating that a veteran’s mental or physical health (or both) is so severe, that he or she is unable to seek or hold “gainful” (above the poverty level) employment at all. Since the military as that veteran’s former employer has caused the veteran to lose that potential income, that the military must replace it.
That certainly seems fair. And it also seems fair that if military service caused the veteran a partial disability, than that veteran should only be partially compensated for lost income. But as research is increasingly showing, many veterans are returning from active duty with medical issues that aren’t clearly visible, and even harder to identify.
These “invisible” problems make it difficult to function in everyday civilian situations, and even harder to meet the demands of civilian employment. But that veteran has been classified by the VA as only 40% disabled. Is there nothing that can be done, or is this veteran condemned to struggle along on 40% of a paycheck?
Perhaps not. The Individual Unemployability (IU) program was created by the VA to provide select veterans classified as less than 100% disabled with 100% compensation due to those individuals’ inability to secure and keep gainful employment.
This program is also sometimes referred to as a Total Disability Rating. Other Federal programs, such as the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) offer disability benefits programs.
However, FERS only requires that civilian government employees can no longer work at a particular job, like being a park ranger. SSDI factors in work, age, and education in making disability determinations. VA Individual unemployability process requires its applicants to prove that active service directly caused disabilities that prevent veterans from working.
In order to get higher disability ratings, if VA individual unemployability criteria is met, veterans may combine multiple disability scores, or show that underlying problems were exacerbating a known disability, raising its rating.
For example, in order to qualify for VA Individual Unemployability benefits, a veteran must:
- Have at least one disability that has been rated at 60% or higher
- Veterans have a combined disability total of 70%, and at least one of these disabilities must be classified at 40%
- Be able to indicate why these disabilities don’t meet the 100% rating criteria under the normal VA disability scoring system.
It’s understandable that this is a heavily regulated program, and many veterans who apply for it are denied it the first time they try. But many veterans may be unaware that they are entitled to benefits from this program, and shouldn’t be discouraged from applying for it.
Many vets mistakenly think that if they are able to sporadically work, or hold a part-time job, that they won’t qualify for this program. But it is possible to work and still qualify for it, provided that annual earnings fall below the poverty level, which changes yearly.
In order to ensure a successful application, a certain approach to proving VA individual unemployability process needs to be taken. Applying veterans should collect and submit evidence, which should include a report from a vocational specialist or medical doctor (one from each would be even better).
The veteran should also make him or herself available to the VA to undergo an examination, known as a Compensation and Pension Exam or C&P exam test, to determine if the veteran meets the 50% threshold of disability. And the veteran should definitely collect non-medical evidence, such as employment records and histories, as well as statements from past and current employers if possible.
So what should a veteran do if they collect and submit all of these records and their application is denied? The veteran will be sent a letter from the VA that:
- Clearly states why the application was denied
- Reviews all evidence presented and explains why it was rejected
- Specifies the date on which this decision was made
The veteran then has one calendar year from the date indicated on the denial letter to file a Notice of Disagreement(NOD), which can be done on form VA 21-0958. This NOD must further state that the veteran is formally appealing the decision. If this is not done, than the veteran’s file can be formally closed, and reopened only under certain circumstances.
This is why, for both formally filing claims for these benefits, and in appealing denials, the services of a claims attorney is recommended. These VA benefits attorneys can make sure that all paperwork is filed in a complete and timely manner, collect evidence, obtain medical statements, and challenge ratings. So in order to keep from being denied benefits that you are entitled to, contact one today, and protect your and your family’s financial security.
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