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VA TDIU Requirements – Understanding How to Qualify

VA TDIU Requirements – Understanding How to Qualify

What are the basic TDIU Requirements? The basic VA disability rating scheme is pretty straightforward: the VA will compensate disabled veterans at a rate based on their level of disability. A ratings-based compensation means a veteran for whom the VA will pay an 80% disability rating more each month than a veteran for whom the VA gives a 20% rating. The VA bases this scheme on the belief that the level of disability accurately describes the veteran’s loss of income, and the compensation the VA gives means to make up for that loss.

This mechanical application doesn’t always paint an accurate disability picture or account for how some disabilities impact a veteran’s day-to-day life.

VA disability medical examinations and claims processes tend to focus on medical issues. For example, doctors who perform compensation and pension examinations (aiming to determine the level of disability, among other issues) tend to focus on symptoms that are easy to describe or quantify. For example, a shoulder examination would focus on a range of motion or the ability to bear weight. A PTSD examination may focus on symptoms such as sleep loss or suicidal ideations.

Why Veterans With Disabilities Are Different

However, doctors often overlook the effects of these injuries in the everyday world, specifically how these injuries affect employment. That assessment doesn’t make its way into the disability rating process, as doctors are often not qualified to make such assessments. For veterans with disabilities that impact them uniquely, total disability due to individual unemployability (TDIU) benefits may be the answer.

TDIU claims are quite complex. Veterans must prove they are severely disabled and that their disabilities make them unemployable. One element or the other is not enough. However, a VA disability attorney can help the veteran tie together the necessary elements and present a convincing case.

Full disability benefits are substantial. In addition to free medical care at any VA medical center in the nation, these Veterans receive monthly cash stipends.

Total Disability

These two words seem straightforward, but often, that is not the case. By the book, for TDIU purposes, veterans are totally disabled if they have a:

  • The single condition that is at least 60% disabling, or
  • Combination of conditions that are at least 70% disabling, with at least one condition rated at 40% or higher

Bear in mind that complex VA math applies to multiple disability matters. If a veteran has a 40% shoulder disability and a 30% PTSD disability, the veteran is not 70% disabled. After subtracting the 40% disability, she is 60% healthy. So, her additional 30% disability is only a 20% disability (0.3 x 60=18, which the VA rounds up to 20). Thus, it does not qualify for TDIU.

What if the shoulder and PTSD disabilities, together, prevent the veteran from being able to work at her typical job or get hired at a more suitable place? She can still apply for TDIU on an “extraschedular” basis. If a claims examiner thinks the case has merit, the Director of Compensation Service will receive the issue by referral for review. The Director makes a suggested determination, and the case returns to its place in the VA claims process. The Director’s finding does not bind the examiner or judge. A veteran can appeal a denial of TDIU on a schedular or extraschedular basis.

Individual Unemployability

Extraschedular cases are easier to prove if the veteran is clearly unemployable. Unemployability means a veteran is unable to continually engage in substantially gainful employment. This means the veteran must be able to obtain and maintain gainful employment. Part-time jobs, volunteer work, or work that doesn’t pay enough to raise the veteran above the poverty line do not count. The work must allow the veteran to support themselves.

Just because a veteran does not have a job doesn’t mean they are unemployable. There must be evidence that the veteran can’t obtain and/or maintain work based on their abilities. For example, if a young, disabled veteran is only trained to move boxes and has a disability that prevents them from doing that, but professionals could train the veteran to perform seated tasks at a computer, the veteran may not qualify for TDIU.

Unemployability And Sheltered Environments

Additionally, working in a “sheltered” environment does not count. If a disabled veteran works for one of their family members and receives unreasonably generous accommodations which they would not likely get at another job, they may still qualify for TDIU.

“Unemployable” is a nebulous term. To clarify it, attorneys often partner with vocational experts. These individuals assess the veteran’s overall qualifications, including things like a medical disability and job experience, in the context of the current employment market.

Usually, TDIU cash benefits are retroactive to the date the veteran became unemployable. In many cases, that previous date could be years or decades before the veteran filed for disability benefits.

Work With Diligent Attorneys

An attorney is a valuable partner in all phases of a disability claim. For a free consultation with an experienced Veterans disability lawyer, contact Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact box on our website. We are here to represent veterans nationwide.

This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship

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