What Does Unemployable Mean

What Does Unemployable Mean

What Does Unemployable Mean to the VA?

Let’s break this down so you are clear on what does unemployable mean to the VA. As the name implies, Total Disability due to Individual Unemployability (TDIU) has two basic prongs. Veterans must establish both prongs in order to obtain TDIU benefits.

“Total Disability” is not synonymous with bedridden. This phrase means that the Veteran has a physical, emotional, mental, or other condition that significantly impairs important life functions on an ongoing basis. The disability rating, from 10 to 100%, is the only subjective element.

“Individual Unemployability,” on the other hand, is almost entirely subjective. 

Therefore, a VA disability appeals attorney must know more than just the textbook definition. An attorney must also know how to present TDIU claim, which will give the Veteran the greatest chance of success.

Inability to Obtain or Maintain Employment

“Unable” is a subjective word because there is almost always some element of “unwillingness,” as well.

Assume Joseph has a knee injury and PTSD, and VA doctors state that he is 60% disabled. If either the knee or the PTSD garnered a 40% impairment rating, Joseph is eligible for TDIU benefits. But medical eligibility is only the beginning.

Joseph must also be unable to obtain or maintain a job. If Joe is a mechanic by trade, he is probably unable to perform those job functions. But Joseph probably could find another, lower-paying job, which might qualify as substantial gainful employment (more on that below). If he does not take this job, is he still unemployable?

During the initial review process, a claims examiner uses this analysis to deny Joseph’s application. Essentially, the examiner says that Joseph is unwilling to work, but he is not unable to work.

An attorney plays an invaluable role in these situations. Joseph’s lawyer could persuasively argue that the lesser job’s theoretical availability does not make Joseph unemployable. In other words, if the job was far away, the commuting expenses would eat into his salary, Or, if the work was menial, the depression might make Joseph’s PTSD even worse.

Also, note that a lesser job is only available in theory. Most employers do not like hiring overqualified applicants. Furthermore, most employers are not very patient when employees miss work regularly. So, even if Joseph gets hired, he may not work there for long. His 60% disability rating would mean that he missed work frequently. A doctor or vocational professional could bolster Joseph’s case.

Substantial Gainful Employment

Generally, substantial gainful employment (SGE) means a job that pays enough to keep Joseph and his family above the poverty line. Positions like a Walmart greeter or a school crossing guard might keep Joseph busy, but they certainly do not pay enough to qualify as SGE.

There is a subjective element, as well. To most people, a job is more than a paycheck. If the work is not engaging to Joseph, the job is arguably not substantial. As mentioned earlier, if Joseph gets depressed at work, which is likely given his emotional condition, other people pay the price.

Furthermore, the SGE must be in an unsheltered environment. Joseph could probably maintain his brother-in-law’s fleet of delivery trucks. His understanding boss would give Joseph time off when he needed it. But there would be no such accommodations in an unsheltered job. In another situation, Joseph would probably not be able to keep a job. Again, a vocational expert or doctor can provide testimony in this area.

Reach Out to Tenacious Attorneys

By their very nature, TDIU claims are rather subjective. 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.