How Does the PACT Act Affect TDIU Benefits?
The Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins Act (PACT Act) significantly expanded the number of illnesses presumed to be related to service through toxic exposure, mostly associated with burn pits and Agent Orange. However, the PACT Act did not significantly alter the VA’s disability rating system, meaning it is still difficult for veterans to receive 100% disability even when they deserve it. Therefore, to obtain 100% disability benefits, many disabled veterans struggling with toxic exposure illnesses still apply for a VA total disability due to individual unemployability” (TDIU) rating.
Thanks to TDIU, veterans who are partially disabled due to toxic exposure can still obtain maximum benefits with the help of a VA disability attorney. These life-changing benefits include a monthly cash allowance and, perhaps more importantly for long-term disease victims, free medical care at a VA facility. The PACT Act and related federal acts also expand training for VA medical personnel to better deal with toxic exposure illnesses.
TDIU Meaning and PACT Impact
There are two application methods to obtain VA TDIU benefits — schedular and extraschedular.
– Schedular VA requirements state the veteran must have a service-connected condition that is at least 60% disabling, or a combination of service-connected conditions that add up to 70% disabling, with at least one condition being 40% disabling. If the veteran meets this threshold, they can apply for TDIU benefits.
– Extraschedular refers to applications from veterans who do not meet this threshold, usually because they are rated below 60 or 70%. If a veteran does not meet the threshold but feels that their disability effectively makes them unable to work, they can apply to VA on an extraschedular basis. To do this, the veteran must have their claim referred to the VA Director of Compensation Service, who decides whether to refer it back to the VA for consideration.
The PACT Act and TDIU Claims
Nearly all TDIU claims are schedular claims. But the PACT Act might increase the number of extraschedular claims.
Partial and multiple disabilities are common in toxic exposure VA disability claims. Assume Max, an Iraq Veteran exposed to toxic burn pit smoke, develops breathing problems and melanoma. Provided he meets the threshold and is unemployable, then he is entitled to TDIU benefits.
If his disability is rated below 60 or 70%, however, he may still qualify for extraschedular TDIU. Basically, extraschedular TDIU looks beyond a medical disability. Max’s breathing problems limit his activity, and his melanoma means he must miss work and undergo chemotherapy treatments, which weaken him even further. Most likely, if an employer has a choice between Max and an equally qualified candidate, Max will not get the job.
A VA disability lawyer may argue that a veteran’s disabilities have an outsized effect on that veteran’s employment prospects. The PACT Act is a recognition that toxic exposure illnesses arise in unique circumstances and are still being studied. Such illnesses often have an outsized effect because they are not totally understood by medical experts. Overall, disability benefits are available to people who cannot work because of their conditions.
The PACT Act and Individual Unemployability
At VA, “individual unemployability” refers to the inability to hold gainful employment based on a veteran’s unique circumstances. Generally, veterans are unemployable if they cannot find or hold a substantial gainful employment (SGE) job in an unsheltered environment.
SGE usually means the veteran cannot work enough hours, or earn a high enough wage, to live above the poverty line. SGE could also mean an inability to find fulfilling work, but these claims are difficult to win. Sheltered environments are employers like family or veteran-owned businesses. These bosses often give disabled veterans additional time off with pay. They also offer disabled veterans other accommodations, such as more time to complete specific tasks. Accommodations such as these are often unavailable elsewhere.
Individual Unemployability at VA: FAQs
What is the VA TDIU approval rate?
There is no statistical information on the VA TDIU success rate — however, the claims are individualized by definition, so such a rate would not be helpful in a veteran’s particular situation. TDIU claims are difficult to win, but not impossible with the help of an experienced VA disability attorney.
What are the VA TDIU income limits for 2022?
While there are special rules regarding passive income and the number of individuals in a veteran’s household, the general rule is that a veteran must be under the federal poverty threshold to be considered unemployed or unemployable. The threshold was $13,590 at the end of 2022 for one person. The limit increases with each additional person who is part of the household. Speak to a veteran’s attorney for more information on income limits.
Can I work with permanent TDIU?
The short answer is yes. You can have some types of employment and the VA will still consider you unemployable for their purposes. This includes volunteer work, part-time employment, and sheltered employment (e.g., a business owned by your family or other veterans). Or any work where you earn less than the federal poverty threshold.
What is the difference between VA individual unemployability and Social Security disability?
Social Security disability has nothing to do with a veteran’s military background. It is based solely on work history, so the disabling condition does not have to meet service connection requirements.
Do self-employed individuals qualify for unemployment?
If you are self-employed and earning under the federal poverty threshold, it’s not hopeless. You may still qualify for TDIU if you meet other requirements.
What benefits can I get for individual unemployability at VA?
If you are successful in your TDIU claim, you will receive monthly cash payments and free healthcare at VA facilities. Depending on your conditions, you may receive specialized treatment. Check out the VA individual unemployability benefits pay chart for more information.
Count on Diligent Attorneys
An attorney is a valuable partner in all phases of a TDIU VA disability claim. For a free consultation with an experienced veterans disability lawyer, contact Cameron Firm, PC at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact box to your right. We are here to represent veterans nationwide.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship.