A note about this article
This article covers the VA Individual Unemployability timeline for applications and appeals.
This article will give an overview of the application and appeal timelines, cover the eight steps taken by VA examiners, explain the TDIU (Total Disability Individual Unemployability) appeals process, and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the TDIU timeline.
Need help from a VA claims lawyer? Reach out to us for a free TDIU claim evaluation.
In this article about the VA Individual Unemployability application timeline:
- Overview of Steps Taken During the VA Individual Unemployability Timeline
- Pre-Application Process of the VA Individual Unemployability Timeline
- Eight Steps the VA Takes During the Application Process in the TDIU Timeline
- Legacy Appeals Process & the VA Individual Unemployability Timeline
- Frequently Asked Questions on the VA Individual Unemployability Timeline
- Talk to Our TDIU Lawyers About Your VA Individual Unemployability Timeline
Overview of Steps Taken During the VA Individual Unemployability Timeline
VA Individual Unemployability Timeline
- File Application
This is your initial application. This application will be decided at a VA Regional Office (VARO). All veterans must open a claim to move forward in the VA Individual Unemployability timeline. You can file your first application, an increased rating claim, or potentially even a CUE claim.
- Receive Rating Decision
The VA will process your application and make a decision at this point in the VA Individual Unemployability timeline. The VA may take 4-10 months to issue an initial decision. If you are awarded TDIU benefits, congratulations, you won’t have to go through the appeals process.
- File Appeal to BVA
Veterans have one year from the date on their Rating Decision letter to begin their appeal. Don’t wait to seek help to file an appeal. The appeal process is cumbersome, complex, and confusing for many veterans
- Receive BVA Decision
This part of the VA Individual Unemployability timeline can easily take 4-7 years. Seriously, 4-7 years. Since this is such a long process, you want to do it right the first time. Do you really want to lose your claim and then fight through another appeals process? Of course you don’t.
- File Appeal to CAVC
The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) is the last stop for a previously denied TDIU claim before the U.S Supreme Court. Most claims do not make it to the CAVC or the U.S. Supreme Court. You must first have a final decision at the BVA. You cannot jump to the CAVC directly from the VARO.
- Receive CAVC Decision
This will be the final decision on your claim unless the U.S. Supreme Court takes your case. The wait times for a CAVC decision vary greatly.
TDIU Attorney Neil Woods answers veterans common questions about Individual Unemployability benefits:
Pre-Application Process of the VA Individual Unemployability Timeline
The VA Individual Unemployability timeline really starts before you submit your claim. As you will see in a later section about the VA’s eight application steps, your claim can move through the VA Individual Unemployability timeline faster if you submit quality, relevant evidence with your TDIU application.
Start gathering the evidence you need before you submit your TDIU application. Remember, the VA does not usually do a very good job of gathering evidence during your application. Your TDIU claim is a legal matter – treat it like a legal case and present the strongest argument you can through your evidence. Here are some steps you’ll want to take before the application process:
Step One: Request Your C-File
This is the first thing you want to do in the VA Individual Unemployability timeline. Your Claims File (C-File) should have all your medical records from your treatment in the military and at VA facilities. We want to warn you, this process of the VA Individual Unemployability timeline can take a long time.
Sometimes veterans receive their C-Files pretty quickly and other veterans have to wait for a significant period of time. When you receive your C-File, submit documents that bolster your TDIU claim with your application. You can request your C-File here.
Step Two: Gather Medical Evidence
If you treated with doctors outside the VA system, you should request those relevant medical records that can help prove your service-connected disabilities. For some reason, many veterans are under the impression they cannot use non-VA medical records. You can! Veterans use non-VA medical records all the time. The use of non-VA records will continue to grow as the VA expands healthcare access outside the VA system.
Step Three: Get Lay Statements
Lay statements from family and friends are often helpful when veterans are applying for benefits for mental conditions. Lay statements can help further the veteran’s story by showing how military service changed the veteran – therefore service-connecting the mental impairment. Lay statements can also be used to show the VA the severity of mental conditions and how they affect the veteran’s life.
Step Four: Get Buddy Statements
If you have missing service records, at this point in the VA Individual Unemployability timeline you may want to get buddy statements. Many veterans trying to obtain VA TDIU ratings for PTSD may find their records do not include the stressor event(s) that happened to them during service. You can have people you served with verify that stressor events like an IED or enemy ambush happened in a statement.
Step Five: Previous Employer Statement
This step in the pre-application VA Individual Unemployability timeline is very important. Remember, you are trying to show the VA you can’t work from your service-connected disabilities. Your former employer can write a statement about how your service-connected disabilities affected your employability.
They should note if you missed lots of work from PTSD, or couldn’t stand long from a back injury, or that you can’t hear, and talking to clients on the phone has become impossible. You can submit this statement to the VA. This evidence can be very powerful!
Step Six: Fill Out Application
Now that you have gathered all your evidence, it’s time to get your application filled out. Remember to double-check your entire TDIU application. Don’t let small mistakes delay your decision or lead to a denial. You can fill out your TDIU application online or by snail mail.
Step Seven: Mail Application or Submit Application Online
We suggest you submit your application online with eBenefits. It makes the entire VA application process easier and faster. If you fill out your application online, the VA will acknowledge receipt sooner. Plus, you can start to track your claim online. At this point in the VA Individual Unemployability timeline, your claim is with the VA and they are going to take the eight steps listed in the next section.
Eight Steps the VA Takes During the Application Process in the TDIU Timeline
There are eight steps the VA is going to take during the application process. This portion of the TDIU timeline is only for your initial application. This section of the TDIU timeline will only cover what the VA will do after they receive your application.
If you are denied TDIU benefits, your TDIU timeline will continue onto the appeals process. The TDIU timeline of the appeals process is explained in the next section of this article.
Step One: Claim Received
During this step, the VA will acknowledge receipt of your claim. If you applied on VONAPP Direct Connect, you should be able to see online fairly quickly when the VA receives your TDIU application.
If you applied by mail, the VA claims they need around two weeks to input your claim. Make sure the VA received your application. Veterans can log into their eBenefits account to track the process of their TDIU claim.
Step Two: Under Review
During this portion of the TDIU timeline and the application phase, your claim is given to a Veterans Service Representative (VSR) to review your evidence. The VSR will determine if you need more evidence. If your TDIU claim needs more evidence, your TDIU claim will move to step three. If your TDIU claim doesn’t need more evidence, it will move to step five.
Step Three: Gathering of Evidence
In this phase of the TDIU timeline for applications, your assigned VSR will request evidence. The VA may request records from your doctors, Social Security Administration, your C-File, and from you.
Remember, the VA has a duty to assist your TDIU claim, but it does not always follow the law. Do not rely solely upon the VA for evidence. You should build a case on your own. Do not assume the VA is going to successfully request every relevant medical record.
Step Four: Review of Evidence
This step of the TDIU timeline happens when all evidence needed is received. It is possible to go backward in the TDIU timeline during this phase. If the VA determines more evidence is needed, you’ll go back to step three. If the VA determines you have all the evidence needed for your TDIU claim, your claim will progress to step five.
Step Five: Preparation for Decision
At this point in the TDIU timeline, your VSR will recommend an outcome for your TDIU claim. The VSR will produce required documents that explain their decision. Once again, the VSR has the option to request more evidence. If that happens, you’ll go back in the TDIU timeline to step three.
Step Six: Pending Decision Approval
During this phase of the TDIU timeline, the VSR’s recommendation is examined. If the VSR’s recommendation is approved, the VA will follow the VSR’s recommendation and an award or denial will be made.
Guess what could also happen during this phase of the TDIU timeline? The VA has the option to request more evidence. If that happens, you’ll go back in the TDIU timeline to step three.
Step Seven: Preparation for Notification
At this step in the TDIU timeline, the VA will prepare a packet to mail to you. Your Rating Decision letter will be sent to you by mail in this packet.
Step Eight: Decision Sent
The decision packet will be mailed to the address you supplied the VA. If you have moved and you didn’t tell the VA, you may not receive your decision packet. Regardless of whether or not you receive the decision packet, the TDIU timeline for your appeal has already started.
Legacy Appeals Process & the VA Individual Unemployability Timeline
This section is only for TDIU appeals that are considered legacy claims. The new appeals process became effective on February 19, 2019. If your claim is in the AMA appeals process, please see the section on this page regarding AMA TDIU appeals.
Learn More: Calculate your rating with our VA Disability Benefits Rating Calculator
Step One: Denial or Low-Rating Received
The veteran must receive a TDIU denial or a low rating to start the VA Individual Unemployability timeline for appeals. When this happens, don’t worry, many veterans are denied benefits or rated too low. If you were denied or rated too low, it is now time to consider contacting a veterans disability benefits lawyer.
Step Two: Notice of Disagreement (NOD)
The Notice of Disagreement lets the VA know that you disagree with their decision. Veterans and their family members must file the NOD within one year from the date the decision was made. This date will be on your Rating Decision letter.
Step Three: Statement of the Case (SOC)
The VA will send the Statement of the Case (SOC) to the veteran or their lawyer. This often takes a while; sometimes around 200 days. The SOC should be reviewed carefully for any mistakes.
Step Four: VA Form 9
If you wish to appeal, you must now file a Form 9 to begin the appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). You must meet the time limits for filing a Form 9 or you forfeit your right to appeal and your TDIU timeline stops.
Step Five: Supplemental Statement of the Case (SSOC)
These are generally required with new evidence that may have been submitted with the Form-9. SOCs may also be provided after a TDIU appeal is remanded to the VA Regional Office (VARO) by the Board for new or additional action.
Step Six: Certification to the Board
Hearings are scheduled after your certification to the Board. You do have the option to submit paper briefs and skip the hearing. We generally do not see the upside to hearings. Paper briefs are sufficient to prove your TDIU claim.
Step Seven: Board Decision
At this point in the TDIU timeline, the Board will make a decision. The Board has the option to deny, grant, or remand (see below).
Step Eight: Potential Remand of TDIU Claim
The Board may decide to send your claim back to the VARO. Generally, a BVA remanded decision will instruct the VARO on how to proceed with your TDIU claim. At this point in the TDIU timeline, the Board may direct the VARO to get more evidence or even schedule an exam.
Frequently Asked Questions on the VA Individual Unemployability Timeline
First, we want you to understand that expediting doesn’t mean you go to the front of the line. The term ‘expedited’ makes veterans believe their claim will move through the VA Individual Unemployability timeline fast. It won’t. If your VA disability claim is expedited, the appeals process can still take years. The only reasons you get to expedite a TDIU claim are for terminal illness, advanced age, and financial hardship.
Getting your evidence, argument, brief, and documents correct the first time can help you move through the VA Individual Unemployability timeline faster. This is why it’s so important to get qualified help with your TDIU claim. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet or secret to getting your TDIU benefits quickly. The VA is slow.
Yes. Veterans can receive both TDIU and SSDI benefits at the same time. The VA Individual Unemployability timeline will operate completely separate from your SSDI claim. Each claim will be processed differently and by different government entities.
Click here to see the VA disability appeal success rates.
That wouldn’t make sense to do this. A 100% rating pays the same as TDIU benefits. You can really get one or the other. For example, suppose you have a 100% permanent and total PTSD rating. You are already being compensated the same as you would with TDIU benefits. If you re-open your claim, the VA can do all kinds of weird stuff like lower your rating. In other words, if you already have a 100% rating, don’t take a risk of having your rating lowered.
Talk to Our TDIU Lawyers About Your VA Individual Unemployability Timeline
Woods & Woods Individual Unemployability lawyers have successfully represented thousands of veterans. We have entire teams of lawyers, doctors, case analysts, and case managers dedicated solely to Individual Unemployability claims.
When it comes to Individual Unemployability claims, we are nationally recognized for our work on TDIU appeals. Our lawyers teach VA disability law at national conferences and have even taught several other law firms how to handle VA claims.
We offer free TDIU claim evaluations to anyone.
- Learn about your legal options as a veteran who needs TDIU benefits.
- Ask us questions about your claim at no charge.
- We can help you figure out what is going on with your claim.
Free help filing your TDIU application.
- There is never a fee for help with your TDIU application.
- There is never a fee if your initial application is successful.
- There is never an obligation to hire us because we helped with the application.
You only pay if your appeal is successful.
- Our Individual Unemployability benefit denial lawyers only charge if your appeal is successful.
- You will only pay us a percentage of your back pay.
- We will never touch your future benefits and we’ll never ask for money upfront.
- If your appeal is not successful, you pay us nothing. Not even a penny.