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VA Unemployability for PTSD: A Comprehensive Guide

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. It can cause various symptoms, including flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and depression. For veterans, PTSD is a common condition that can significantly impact their ability to work and earn a living. Fortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers an Individual Unemployability (IU) program that provides financial support for veterans who can no longer work due to service-connected disabilities like PTSD.

This guide will explore the VA Individual Unemployability program, its eligibility requirements, the application process, and frequently asked questions.

What Does PTSD Mean?

Many names have known Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In the years of WWI, it was known as “shell shock”; after WWII, it was called “combat fatigue.” PSTD refers to the psychiatric disorder resulting from experiencing or witnessing “a traumatic event, series of events or set of circumstances.”

This condition manifests in many ways, and symptoms can vary significantly in severity. Common symptoms include:

  • Distressing dreams; or flashbacks of the traumatic event
  • Isolating oneself by avoiding people, places, and activities that trigger distressing memories
  • Ongoing negative thoughts and feelings such as fear, shame, or paranoia
  • Erratic behavior such as angry outbursts, self-destructive behavior
  • Problems concentrating or sleeping

These symptoms may result in the inability to work or maintain gainful employment. Treatment options often require a mix of therapy and medication. Though treatment is available, it is not always effective in managing the condition, especially in severe cases.

Treatment is available through the VA, and veterans in suicide crises can receive free emergency treatment at any VA or non-VA facility.  If you or another veteran you know is in crisis, reach out for help at 988 (press 1).

What is VA Individual Unemployability?

If the veteran’s service-connected PTSD interferes with their ability to find or maintain a job, they can file an unemployment claim depending on their VA PTSD rating. IU provides disability compensation at a 100% rate to veterans who cannot work due to service-connected disabilities. This program is designed to compensate veterans unable to maintain gainful employment due to their service-connected disabilities, such as PTSD.

Eligibility Requirements

The eligibility requirements are the same as those for Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU). To be eligible for IU for PTSD, a veteran must meet these requirements:

  • Service-connected disability: The veteran must show that their PTSD results from an in-service event(s).
  • VA rating: The veteran must have a VA disability rating of at least 60% for their PTSD or a combined rating of 70% if claiming two or more service-connected conditions. One must be rated at a minimum of 40%.
  • Inability to maintain substantially gainful employment: The veteran must show that the service-connected disability prevents them from obtaining and maintaining gainful employment.

Gainful employment is any work that provides enough income to support the veteran and their dependents. If the veteran does not make enough to put them above the poverty line, their work is not considered “gainful.”

How the VA Rates PTSD

The VA disability rating for PTSD is based on the five types of PTSD, increasing in terms of severity:

  1. Normal Stress Response (10%)
  2. Acute Stress Disorder (30%)
  3. Uncomplicated PTSD (50%)
  4. Complex PTSD (70%)
  5. Co-Morbid PTSD (100%)

The VA recently removed the 0% rating, so the C&P doctor must assign any veteran showing symptoms a 10% rating. Read our blog post “The Five and Five of VA Disability PTSD” to learn about the symptoms associated with the ratings.

How to Apply For PTSD Disability

If you believe that you meet the eligibility requirements for VA Unemployability for PTSD, you can apply for the program by following these steps:

  1. Gather all necessary documentation: You must provide the VA with documentation supporting your claim. These include medical and service records and other supporting documents such as buddy or income statements.
  2. Complete the VA Form 21-8940: This form is the Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability. A VA Form 21-4192 may also be required if the VA requires information from your last employer.
  3. Submit your application: Once you have completed the application form and gathered all necessary documentation, you can submit your application to the VA. You can do this online through the VA’s eBenefits portal, by mail, or in person at your local VA office.

Frequently Asked Questions about VA Individual Unemployability

Q: How much compensation can I receive through VA Unemployability for PTSD?

A: If you are approved for VA Unemployability for PTSD, you will receive disability compensation at the 100% rate, currently $3,146.42 monthly, for a single veteran with no dependents.

Q: Can I work while receiving VA disability benefits?

A: Yes, you can work while receiving VA Unemployability for PTSD, but your earnings cannot exceed the poverty level for a family of one.  This is currently $14,580 per year. You may also be required to prove that your current job falls under the “marginal employment” category.

Q: Can I appeal a decision on my Unemployability claim?

A: Yes, if your claim is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision. You can do this by submitting a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) within one year of the date on your denial letter.

If you feel you’ve been wrongly denied for your PTSD claim, partner with an experienced attorney to file your appeal. Schedule a free consultation with Cameron Firm, PC by calling (800) 861-7262 or submit a form. Use our experience and resources to get the benefits you deserve.

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