If you are a veteran with a 70% VA rating and you cannot work from your service-connected disabilities, you may be eligible for Individual Unemployability benefits. This article can help veterans learn how to appeal a 70% VA rating for Individual Unemployability. We’ll cover many of the tips and tricks we’ve learned over the many years of representing veterans.
If you need help after reading this article, feel free to reach out to Woods & Woods. There is never a charge for an Individual Unemployability consultation. Click here to get in touch with us.
Introduction to 70% Ratings and Individual Unemployability
If you received a Rating Decision within the last one year, you can appeal your 70 percent VA disability rating. Individual Unemployability benefits are a special section of VA law for veterans that cannot work from service-connected disabilities. Individual Unemployability benefits pay veterans the exact same amount as a 100% rating. However, veterans that obtain Individual Unemployability benefits do not have to receive a 100% rating to be eligible.
Here are the first Individual Unemployability requirements you must meet:
- Evidence of at least one service-connected disability AND
- That the service-connected disability or disabilities are sufficient, without regard to other factors,
to prevent performing the mental and/or physical tasks required to get or keep substantially gainful employment AND
- That one disability is ratable at 60% or more, OR
- If more than one disability exists, one disability is ratable at 40% or more with a combined rating of 70% or more.
Let’s examine what the above requirements actually are saying. The above bullet points are the VA’s language and it can be confusing. Essentially, there are two ways to be eligible for Individual Unemployability:
You are a Veteran
+ Can’t Work From Service-Connected Disabilities
+ One Disability Rated at 60% or More
= Individual Unemployability
You are a Veteran
+ Can’t Work From Service-Connected Disabilities
+ Combined Rating of 70% or Above
+ One Disability Rated at 40% or More
= Individual Unemployability
Steps to Appeal a 70% VA Rating for Individual Unemployability
1. Find out if you’re eligible for IU benefits: We talk to many veterans with 70% ratings who want to appeal for an Individual Unemployability rating. Here is the problem, many of them are not eligible. The VA disability appeal process is cumbersome and lengthy. You don’t want to go through the Individual Unemployability timeline of 4-5 years if you don’t have a chance of winning.
2. Collect all the evidence you can: If you plan to appeal a 70% VA rating for Individual Unemployability, you are going to need evidence. Make sure your medical evidence is relevant to your claim. Don’t expect the VA to gather all the evidence you need. Even though the VA has a duty to assist veterans with their claims, they do not create new evidence for you. We find the VA does a poor job of obtaining records, so you or your VA benefits appeal lawyer need to be responsible for your evidence. There is a section below covering what evidence is helpful if you plan to appeal a 70% VA rating for Individual Unemployability.
3. File your Notice of Disagreement (NOD): Veterans can file a generic NOD with the VA. Your NOD essentially tells the VA you plan to file a formal appeal at a later date. You must submit your NOD within one year of your last Rating Decision. If you have waited longer than one year, you will need to file for an Increased Rating claim.
4. Talk With a Lawyer: If you have questions about how to appeal a 70% VA Rating for Individual Unemployability, you can always get a free legal consultation from Woods & Woods. You can ask all the questions you have about your potential 70% rating to IU appeal at no cost. There is never an obligation to hire our veterans unemployability lawyers just because you obtained a legal consultation.
Evidence Veterans can use if Appealing a 70% Rating to IU
One of the most common reasons we see Individual Unemployability claims denied is because the veteran’s claim is lacking evidence. You cannot assume your medical records are going to be enough to win an 70% rating to IU appeal. A very large number of our clients came to us from free veteran’s services. What we often see is that free veterans services do not develop claims properly. Many free organizations do not have the money to obtain medical reports from specialists. Obtaining a report from a reputable, qualified doctor can easily cost $400. However, proper evidence is the secret to winning VA disability benefits claims.
Our Individual Unemployability lawyers regularly consult with psychologists during clients’ claims. If you are trying to take a 70% rating to IU, evidence is going to be your best friend if you use it correctly. Suppose you are trying to win your PTSD VA disability benefits claim but you do not have a diagnosis of PTSD. You can send your medical and service records to a psychologist. They are likely to meet with you by phone or in person and can write a diagnosis of your PTSD.
Our veterans disability benefits lawyers use medical reports from doctors outside the VA system for almost every appeal we file. When the VA erroneously denies a secondary service-connected condition, we use a medical doctor’s report to rebut the VA’s statements. A good doctor can show how your secondary conditions are related to your direct service-connected conditions. The report the doctor writes after reviewing your medical records can be used to appeal a 70% VA rating for Individual Unemployability benefits.
Former Employer Statements
Veterans that wish to appeal a 70% VA rating for Individual Unemployability can submit statements from former employers. Have your former employer write a statement about how your service-connected mental and physical disabilities affected your employment. If you missed many days of work because of schizophrenia, have your former employer put that in your report. If your back pain was so severe that you had to take lots of breaks and days off, have them put that in your report.
Vocational Expert Reports
Vocational experts can write reports for veterans detailing why they cannot do particular jobs. Because many veterans have both mental and physical conditions, they cannot perform demanding physical jobs or sedentary jobs. A vocational expert can detail how your disabilities prevent you from both types of work. Veterans can use these reports for both their TDIU and SSDI claims.
Buddy statements can be used for veterans trying to appeal a 70% VA rating for Individual Unemployability. Buddy statements are particularly helpful if you are missing service records. You can have the people you served with write statements to prove that certain events happened. You can also use buddy statements to help prove that you served in a particular place. Some veterans have used buddy statements to prove exposure to toxic chemicals at military bases.
At our law firm we regularly use lay statements from veterans friends and family members. These statements should be used to prove how service-connected conditions affected you after the military service. Your friends and family members should write about your condition before, during, and after service. Have them detail how your service-connected conditions changed your quality of life. If you are trying to prove a mental condition, have your friend or family member write about how the military changed you. Lay statements can be powerful pieces of evidence if they are corroborated with your other evidence.
Thing Vets Should Know About Appealing a 70% Rating to IU
1. If your last Rating Decision was more than a year ago, you cannot appeal.
If it has been more than one year since your last Rating Decision, you are no longer eligible to appeal. However, you can file an increased rating claim. To win an increased rating claim, you will need to show how your conditions have worsened since your last Rating Decision.
2. The VA might initially lower your rating in an appeal.
It is common to have your rating lowered by appealing. However, you will appeal that decision by taking your claim further into the VA disability appeals process. Do not let a temporary rating reduction scare you away from your ultimate goal to appeal a 70% VA rating for Individual Unemployability.
3. If you appeal a 70% VA rating for Individual Unemployability, your claim can take 4-5 years.
The appeal process does not happen overnight, to say the least. The VA takes its time deciding claims. There are currently 400,000 backlogged VA claims. Even once veterans are docketed at the BVA there can be along waits. You are going to need patience to get through the 70% to IU appeal process. The good news is that thousands of veterans do get through the 70% to IU appeal process and win every year.
4. There are income limits for Individual Unemployability benefits.
If you are working, your job must be considered marginal employment or a protected/sheltered work environment for TDIU benefits. Marginal means you earned at or below the poverty level on the same year as your effective date. Sheltered means you have accommodations at your job for your service-connected disabilities. A large number of veterans that are working will not obtain Individual Unemployability benefits.
Get Help From our Individual Unemployability Appeal Lawyers
Since 1985, the lawyers at Woods & Woods have fought for injured and disabled people. Our VA-accredited disability lawyers have helped thousands of veterans win their Individual Unemployability appeals. You only pay Woods & Woods if we win your appeal. If your VA disability appeal is not successful, you pay us nothing.
Woods & Woods VA disability compensation lawyers offer free legal consultations to any veteran, their family members, and caretakers. If you’re not working and have not yet applied for Individual Unemployability benefits, we can help with the application no cost.