The difference between 100% and TDIU is that a 100% combined rating allows you to continue working if you can, while TDIU is for veterans who can’t be gainfully employed due to a condition caused by their military service.
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Are you a veteran who can’t work because of a health condition caused by your military service? If so, you’ll want to understand the difference between 100% disability and TDIU. Both provide benefits for veterans injured in the line of duty.
In this article about 100% ratings and TDIU:
What does a 100% VA rating mean?
A 100% rating for a single disability means you receive the VA’s highest rating for a service-connected condition on the Schedule of Ratings. In other words, this rating means that you are disabled at the highest level related to your disability. And therefore, you get the most compensation available.
A single 100% rating is not easy to receive because it means that the condition you’re experiencing is severe and is considered totally disabling. Despite the difficulty of receiving a single 100% rating, more than a million veterans were considered totally disabled and receiving benefits at this rate in 2021.
Total ratings are not automatically permanent. The VA can reduce a 100% rating if they can prove that your condition has “shown material improvement.” Material improvement means that there has been a significant change in the veteran’s ability to function in daily life.
A combined rating of 100% is not a total disability because a person can maintain substantially gainful employment with a combined 100%.
What is TDIU?
Total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) means you can’t work because of a service-connected condition or a combination of service-connected conditions, but you aren’t being compensated at a 100% rate based on your ratings.
An award of TDIU pays the same monthly compensation as a 100% rating for the disorder in question without you having to qualify at that level. You can apply for TDIU if you cannot work because of a service-related mental or physical medical condition or a combination of multiple service-connected conditions and their side effects.
Almost 375,000 veterans were receiving TDIU benefits as of 2021. Veterans with a dishonorable discharge are not eligible for TDIU.
According to VA disability law, qualifying for schedular TDIU requires you to have:
- At least one service-connected disability rated at least 60% OR
- Two or more service-connected disabilities, at least one disability ratable at 40% or more, with a combined rating of 70% or more
In some situations, veterans can be given a single rating that adds up to TDIU levels if multiple conditions are considered a single disability. Those circumstances include:
- When one or both upper extremities or one or both lower extremities are affected (including the bilateral factor)
- If multiple disabilities were caused by the same condition or incident (called a common etiology)
- Multiple disabilities that affect a single body system (orthopedic, digestive, respiratory, cardiovascular-renal, neuropsychiatric)
- Multiple injuries incurred in action
- Multiple disabilities incurred as a prisoner of war
If you don’t meet the criteria, you might still be awarded TDIU under what is called extraschedular TDIU, which is awarded in exceptional or unusual disability cases. These decisions are often made by the office of the Director of Compensation and Pension rather than the VA regional office.
TDIU isn’t always permanent, and veterans with TDIU are prohibited from working.
What is the difference between 100% and TDIU?
A key difference between a 100% combined rating and TDIU is that you can work with a 100% combined rating if you’re able to do so. Having gainful employment doesn’t harm your ability to receive a 100% combined rating and the related compensation.
If you received a 100% rating for a single condition, you likely received it because your conditions prevent you from working. But you can’t be fully employed and receive TDIU. However, you can work odd jobs as long as they are considered marginal employment.
3 steps to apply for TDIU
When it comes to receiving TDIU, it’s essentially a three-step process. First, you have to service connect your condition(s), which means you must be able to prove that the medical issue you’re experiencing is related to your military service. Then, you need to get the highest possible rating for those conditions. Finally, you must prove that you’re unemployable because of the service-connected conditions.
It might be difficult to directly connect some conditions to your military service unless you were injured during your service. Secondary service connection is another way in which service connection is awarded. It means the symptoms you’re experiencing are the result of a previously service-connected condition.
For the VA to consider disability benefits, you must file a claim. The VA will usually request a Compensation and Pension exam for the disability you have claimed. You also can use a Disability Benefits Questionnaire to help your claim. A DBQ allows you to address symptoms, severity, possible causes, and how the condition may be related to other disabilities. A private physician may also complete the form for you.
Once the VA processes your claim for benefits, you will receive an award or denial in the form of a rating decision. If the VA denies your benefits, you may want to file an appeal. If you were denied TDIU in the past, you can reapply.
What is the TDIU processing time?
How long it takes to receive TDIU depends, said Zack Evans, a VA-certified disability benefits attorney. It could take months or years, depending on where you are in the process.
“It’s impossible to predict. That’s not a great answer, but it’s the truth,” he said. “Every case is completely different. That’s why it’s crucial that whatever representative you choose, that it’s someone who’s focused on your specific facts, bringing your story out and discussing why your unemployability flows from your time in service.”
“They brought me from being stuck at 30%. Denial after denial. Finally rated at 70%. Appealed for total and unable to work disability since 2014. Without Woods and Woods I would still be stuck at 30%.“
Woods and Woods can help
If you can’t work due to your military service, you deserve VA disability compensation. Contact Woods and Woods to file a claim or appeal a rating decision. You only pay us if we win.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
You can work with a 100% combined rating if you’re physically able to. If you have a single 100% rating for a single disability, it is likely because your condition prevents you from working. TDIU is for veterans who can’t maintain gainful employment because of injuries or illnesses related to service. Therefore, you can’t be gainfully employed and receive that benefit.
While we don’t have an exact success rate, we do know that more than 375,000 veterans received benefits at this level in 2021.