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Obtaining a Total Disability Rating Based on Individual Unemployability

Let’s look at securing a total disability rating from the VA and having it based on Individual Unemployability. There are several ways to be considered 100 percent disabled by VA standards. One way is to obtain a total disability rating based on individual unemployability, or TDIU. TDIU differs from a regular 100 percent rating, or combination of ratings because it is based on the veteran’s functional employability and thus focuses on vocation instead of, say, the use of a particular body part.

Notably, in this sense, “unemployable” does not mean the veteran cannot complete any task. Rather, it means the veteran, due to his or her service-connected disabilities, cannot obtain and maintain gainful employment. To break that down further:

  1. The veteran must be unable to obtain employment;
  2. The veteran must be unable to maintain that employment and
  3. The employment must be gainful, meaning full-time and paying enough to keep the veteran above the poverty line.

Helpful Comparisons For A Total Disability Rating

A helpful comparison is an individual who is considered legally blind. That person may still be able to see a little, but not enough to function properly. For example, someone who can still see shadows and blurred shapes is not technically 100 percent blind, because some sight exists. But for purposes of completing physical tasks, their sight does not help much and the government considers them totally blind. Veterans with TDIU can still complete tasks and may be able to engage in volunteer work or part time employment. However, holding a normal, full-time job is not possible given their disabilities.

VA government lawyers often tenaciously fight TDIU claims. The agency does not want every veteran claiming unemployability to receive a 100 percent rating, as that costs the VA money. As always, and even more so in a TDIU case, a VA disability attorney is an important partner during the claims process. Veterans have little chance of obtaining TDIU benefits on their own, since proving the claim can be complex. But with a qualified lawyer, they have a fighting chance.

Minimum Qualifications

In a majority of cases, the veteran must meet a minimum disability qualification, as follows. The veteran must either have:

  • a single service-connected condition rated 70% disabling or
  • more than one service-connected condition with a combined rating of at least 60% and at least one of those conditions rated 40% disabling.

If the Veteran has multiple service-connected conditions, complex VA math usually applies. Three plus three does not always equal six in this context.


Total Disability Rating Example

Assume Alice obtains a 40% disability rating for knee problems. Later, she obtains a 30% disability rating for hearing loss. Alice is now 60% disabled, as far as the VA is concerned.

Beginning with her knee problem: a 40% disability rating means the VA considers Alice to be a 60% healthy person. Add on a 30% disability rating for hearing loss: the VA starts with the 60% healthy person and takes 30% from that, not from a 100% healthy person. So, taking 30% from 60% removes an additional 20% from Alice’s health. 40% and 20% equal 60%, which is not high enough by VA standards to warrant TDIU consideration.

However, sometimes the technical ratings do not capture a veteran’s complete disability picture, and the VA has created a scheme to account for this. Alice might qualify for an “extra-schedular” TDIU rating, meaning she could be considered for TDIU even if she does not meet the schedular requirements.

PTSD is a good example. The VA assigns a 50% disability rating if the Veteran weekly suffers from symptoms like anxiety, panic attacks, depression, memory loss, impaired judgment, and inability to understand basic instructions. A 50% rating is not high enough for a schedular TDIU rating. However, if a veteran with a full-time job has weekly breakdowns and does not understand basic instructions, it is unlikely he or she will be able to maintain employment. Thus, that veteran could apply to be considered for extra-schedular TDIU.

Proper Presentation And A Total Disability Rating

Standard VA disability claims usually only involve medical proof. For TDIU, a VA disability attorney must also prove the Veteran is unemployable.

Additionally, the Veteran must be unemployable in an unsheltered environment. Alice, with all her medical conditions, could probably work in a family business because the boss might look the other way if her job performance suffered. But she probably would not get that kind of accommodation anywhere else.

To seal the deal, attorneys often partner with vocational experts. These individuals give expert opinions about a veteran’s job prospects, given the veteran’s medical condition, employment background, educational background, and other factors.

Reach Out to Compassionate 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 the Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact box on our website. We are here to represent Veterans nationwide.

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

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