TDIU benefits are for veterans who can’t keep substantially gainful employment because of service-related conditions. This post explains more about benefits for veterans who can’t work and how to obtain them.
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In this article about TDIU benefits for veterans:
- What are TDIU benefits?
- Requirements for TDIU VA benefits
- How to apply for TDIU benefits
- Can I lose my TDIU?
- How does the VA decide whether to reduce TDIU benefits?
- Can I have a job and keep my TDIU benefits?
- Are there other benefits available to veterans with TDIU?
- Woods and Woods can help
What do you do if service-related conditions mean you can’t work enough to earn a living, but you don’t have a 100% disability rating? Total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) may be your answer. TDIU recognizes that you physically or mentally can’t work enough to make ends meet and provides you with the same monthly compensation as a 100% rating.
What are TDIU benefits?
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 the VA doesn’t compensate you 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 your conditions being rated at that level. You can apply for TDIU if you can’t work because of a service-related mental or physical medical condition or multiple service-connected conditions and their side effects. TDIU can be permanent, but it’s not always. It depends on your situation and whether your condition can improve.
While veterans receiving TDIU benefits can’t work full-time, certain situations allow veterans to earn income while receiving these benefits.
Requirements for TDIU VA benefits
A variety of factors determine whether you qualify for TDIU benefits.
Qualifying for TDIU is basically a three-step process:
- First, you have to service connect your condition(s), which means you must prove that the medical issue you’re experiencing relates to your military service.
- Then, your ratings for those conditions need to meet specific rating levels.
- 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 service. Secondary service connection is another way the VA recognizes service connection. It means the symptoms you’re experiencing result from a previously service-connected condition.
TDIU rating criteria
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.
For the above purpose of one 60% disability, or one 40% disability in combination, the VA considers the following as one disability:
- When one or both upper extremities or one or both lower extremities are affected (including the bilateral factor)
- If the same condition or incident caused multiple disabilities (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 rating criteria, you might still receive TDIU under “extraschedular TDIU.” The VA awards extraschedular TDIU in exceptional or unusual disability cases. The VA regional office is instructed to submit all cases of veterans who are unemployable because of their service-connected conditions but who fail to meet the percentage standards discussed above, to the Director of Compensation Service. This special procedure exists because these types of cases are so rare.
Veterans are eligible for TDIU benefits if they can’t maintain what the VA calls substantially gainful employment as a result of service-connected physical or mental conditions.
Maybe you have lost job after job because of frequent absences. Perhaps the work you are used to doing is too physically taxing. You may even have trouble getting a job because of your mental state. If you believe your unemployment is related to conditions from service, you may qualify for monthly compensation.
Get Your TDIU Pay Chart
Download and print this free pay chart of TDIU monthly payments. We show you what it takes to win Total Disability because of Individual Unemployability. This chart details the monthly pay that veterans get when they win IU for their VA disability claim.
How to apply for TDIU benefits
Like with all VA benefits, there’s a process to apply for TDIU. There is a form for applying for TDIU (VA Form 21-8940), but whether you file it and when you file it depends on where you are in the appeals process. Filing it with wrong information or at a wrong time in your process could cause serious problems with your claim. If you are filing for TDIU, calling a VA-certified disability benefits attorney at Woods and Woods may be worth your time.
The VA will usually request a compensation and pension exam for the disability you claim. 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.
In addition, you may consider using lay statements from people who know how your disability affects your ability to work. These statements from former employers, coworkers, or family can help support your claim.
Once the VA processes your claim for benefits, you’ll 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.
Can I lose my TDIU?
TDIU isn’t always permanent. You can lose your TDIU if the VA determines that your condition has improved so much that there is “clear and convincing evidence” that you are capable of substantially gainful employment.
The VA also monitors your Social Security earnings if you receive TDIU benefits. If your income increases above the poverty line, you may need to argue for the continuation of your TDIU benefits.
So what is the poverty line? It changes. The U.S. Department of Commerce updates and publishes the federal poverty threshold yearly. In 2022 (at the time of this article’s publication), it’s $13,590 for a single person. Spouses and dependents alter the threshold, including if the spouse is employed. If your income is under the level noted for your situation, your TDIU rating should not change. The VA may review and reduce your benefits if it goes above the threshold.
How does the VA decide whether to reduce TDIU benefits?
The VA uses data from the Social Security Administration to determine if you receive TDIU and work. If the VA sees that you’re earning income, it will send you a letter and a VA Form 21-4140 Employment Questionnaire. You must respond to this letter in the timeframe provided. The VA reviews your response to determine whether you’re eligible for TDIU benefits.
If the VA alters your benefits, you can appeal.
Can I have a job and keep my TDIU benefits?
TDIU is for veterans who can’t maintain “substantially gainful employment” because of injuries or illnesses related to service. Therefore, you can’t be gainfully employed and receive the benefit. The law does not define substantially gainful employment, but the VA considers it as having a job (or jobs) that allows you to earn the wage typically associated with the position in the area where you live.
The VA may lower or remove the TDIU benefit if you’re employed for a consecutive 12 months in a position that any other person in that occupation could fill.
But veterans still may work part-time or contract positions or in those where they receive special accommodations for their injuries. The VA calls these jobs marginal or sheltered employment. You also may own rental properties that you rent but don’t work on or perform odd jobs.
Employment alone doesn’t disqualify you from TDIU. It’s the type and level of employment that matters.
Are there other benefits available to veterans with TDIU?
Veterans eligible for TDIU benefits can receive $3,621.95 a month from the VA. There is also extra monthly compensation for veterans with dependent children and parents.
Veterans can also receive both individual unemployability and Social Security Disability simultaneously. But, being eligible for one disability benefit does not mean you are automatically entitled to the other disability benefits. The Social Security Administration and the Veterans Administration have different eligibility guidelines. Veterans seeking Social Security Disability and TDIU benefits must submit separate applications to each agency.
“The firm got me to 70%, and I was happy. Individual unemployability was awarded to me and to this day I’m so grateful. My future is no longer bleak. These people work very hard for you.“
R.C., a Navy veteran in HawaiiFacebook review
Woods and Woods can help
If you are severely injured — physically or emotionally — due to your military service and can’t work, you deserve VA disability compensation. Contact Woods and Woods to file an initial claim or appeal a rating decision. You only pay us if we win.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Like with any other disability rating, the VA has specific criteria you must meet to receive TDIU. You can appeal the decision if you meet the criteria and are denied TDIU.
If your TDIU is permanent, it’s noted on your rating decision letter. If it is not, the VA can review and alter your TDIU.