If you receive or are interested in filing a claim for veteran’s disability compensation, you may have heard the term “individual unemployability.” What exactly does that mean, and how do you know if you’re eligible?

If you have a service-connected condition that prevents you from securing or maintaining any kind of employment, you may qualify for Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU). That means you might qualify to receive disability compensation at the same level as a veteran who has a 100% disability rating.

Receiving a Rating

Before a veteran can recover benefits for a service-related disability, he or she must first file a claim with the VA and have his or her impairment level rated. The VA will refer to a variety of documents when rating a veteran’s disability, including medical records, service records, and lay statements made by the former servicemember’s loved ones.

A veteran’s disability is rated on a score between zero and 100 in 10 percent increments, with 100 percent representing the highest possible level of disability. While awards are available all the way down to 10 percent, the amount of compensation awarded by the VA for a 10 percent rating will be far lower than for a 100 percent rating.

When a veteran faces a disability that receives the highest possible rating from the VA, the corresponding benefits will also be the maximum available. While maximum compensation requires a 100 percent rating under the schedular disability criteria, substantial benefits could be available even for conditions related below 100 percent. The VA will pay out some monthly benefits for any veteran rated at 10 percent disability or above.

Qualifying for TDIU Benefits

There are two ways to secure VA benefits at a 100 percent rating level. To receive benefits at the 100 percent disability rating based on individual unemployability, a former servicemember must either:

  • You have at least one service-connected disability that is rated at 60% or more, or two service-connected disabilities with at least one rated at 40% or more for a combined total of 70% or more.
  • You are unable to maintain a steady job that supports you financially — that is, you can’t hold down substantially gainful employment — due to your disability.

The first, known as 100-percent schedular disability criteria, requires a condition or combination of conditions rated as a 100 percent disability by the VA. The term “schedular” refers to each individual disability rating a former servicemember receives for one or multiple conditions.

The other option involves meeting the non-schedular qualifying criteria known as TDIU. Under this option, a disabled vet could secure the maximum available benefits even with a condition rated below 100 percent if he or she can prove that it prevents him or her from working a full-time job. A non-schedular — or extraschedular — claim is one that involves a disability that is rated at less than 100 percent.

As either of these approaches can lead to maximum compensation from the VA, one option is not necessarily better than the other. In either of these cases, benefits are only available for disabilities that were service related. The right option in each case will depend on specific nature of a veteran’s disability.

How do You Determine whether Your Disabilities Prevent You from Working?

To determine the severity of your disabilities and whether you qualify for TDIU, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will look at medical records and other evidence. A trained attorney can take you through the process of gathering that information and ensuring all relevant evidence that is likely to support your case is collected and presented. A legal representative can also file an appeal should your application be denied.

How to Apply

To apply for TDIU, you will need to file a claim with the VA. As mentioned above, this entails gathering medical records and other evidence to support your claim to prove that you are eligible to receive compensation. There is also additional paperwork that you will need to fill out, as the VA requires specific forms for individual unemployability claims.

As with all VA disability claims, you will need to demonstrate that your service-connected disability impacts your ability to work. And in the case of TDIU, you will need to also show that it makes you unable to hold down any kind of substantially gainful work.

Working while Receiving TDIU

While it may seem like you wouldn’t be able to work at all if you’re receiving TDIU, that is not always the case. To receive benefits for individual unemployability, you simply need to demonstrate that you can’t maintain substantially gainful work — that is, work that significantly supports your financial needs.

However, there is also what’s called marginal work — jobs that don’t provide enough income to live on but that can be helpful supplements to your disability compensation. If your income doesn’t exceed the poverty line as established by the U.S. Department of Commerce, then your job is typically considered marginal work. And recipients of TDIU are often allowed to maintain this type of job.

Ask an Attorney about Individual Unemployability Claims

For more information on filing an individual unemployability claim, please feel free to give us a call anytime. One of our representatives will be happy to answer your questions. Or if you’d prefer to contact us online, please fill out this form.


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