If you are a veteran with a disability or condition connected to your military service, and your condition inhibits your ability to work, then you may be eligible for total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) benefits.
TDIU benefits give veterans access to a higher compensation amount. In fact, if you qualify for these benefits, you can get the same compensation as someone with a 100% disability rating, even if you don’t qualify for a 100% rating. A 60% rating is important because it is the minimum threshold rating that the VA must assign to a veteran for a service-connected disability before they can receive TDIU benefits. In this article, we will discuss what TDIU benefits are and what disabilities qualify for a 60% rating.
Talk to Us About Your Claim:
In this article about TDIU and a 60% VA rating:
- What are TDIU benefits?
- TDIU eligibility
- How to qualify for TDIU benefits
- How is gainful employment defined?
- One service-connected disability and TDIU benefits
- Multiple service-connected disabilities and TDIU benefits
- Why is a 60% disability rating important?
- What disabilities qualify for a 60% rating?
- How Woods and Woods can help
What are TDIU benefits?
TDIU benefits are monthly tax-free payments that the VA gives to veterans who are unable to get a job or maintain gainful employment due to a disability caused or aggravated by their military service. The VA can issue TDIU benefits at the same compensation level as they would someone with a 100% disability rating. Based on the current VA disability compensation rates, you could receive monthly payments of $3,621.95 or more.
Total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) pays the same amount as a 100% rating for veterans who struggle to hold down a steady job that supports them financially (known as substantially gainful employment) because of their service-connected disability. Odd jobs, which the VA calls “marginal employment,” do not count as substantially gainful.
Veterans are eligible for TDIU if they have:
- At least one service-connected disability rated at 60% or more disabling OR
- Two or more service-connected disabilities with at least one rated at 40% or more disabling and a combined rating of 70% or more
This is why having a condition rated at 60% can be a critical piece in receiving TDIU from the VA.
How to qualify for TDIU benefits
A veteran can only qualify for TDIU benefits if they meet the requirements outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations, which states:
- You must be a veteran.
- You must have a service-connected disability.
- You must not be able to secure or maintain gainful employment as a result of your disability.
- If you have only one service-connected disability, it should be eligible for a 60% or higher disability rating.
- If the veteran has multiple service-connected disabilities, one disability should be rated at 40% or more, and the additional disability should result in a combined rating of 70% or higher. (That means it will have to be a 50% rating or multiple other ratings because of “VA Math.”)
How is gainful employment defined?
Gainful employment is defined as employment that is not marginal. Marginal employment exists when:
- A veteran’s annual income is less than the poverty limit for one individual as defined by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Census Bureau.
- A veteran’s annual income exceeds the poverty limit, but the veteran works in a “protected setting” such as for a family-owned trade or a sheltered workshop.
- The facts that the VA assesses for the veteran’s case suggest that they are marginally employed.
Therefore, even if you can maintain or obtain marginal employment with your disability, you can still qualify for TDIU benefits if your disability prevents you from obtaining or maintaining substantially gainful employment.
One service-connected disability and TDIU benefits
If you have one service-connected disability, then you may be eligible for TDIU benefits as long as you can establish your entitlement to a 60% or more rating in your benefits application.
For example, if you have service-connected osteomyelitis and have recurring episodes with constitutional symptoms, then you may be eligible for a 60% disability rating. If your symptoms prevent you from obtaining or maintaining employment, then the VA may award you with TDIU benefits as compensation based on your 60% rating.
Multiple service-connected disabilities and TDIU benefits
If you have multiple service-connected disabilities that are rated at less than 60%, you could still qualify for TDIU benefits if you receive a 40% or more rating for one disability and the additional disabilities should bring your total rating to 70% or more.
For example, if you have a service-connected traumatic brain injury and the VA assigns you a 40% rating based on your symptoms and a 50% rating for PTSD, you can qualify for a combined 70% rating. This rating would make you eligible for TDIU benefits if your condition makes it impossible for you to obtain or maintain gainful employment.
If you have multiple disabilities and would like to assess your eligibility for TDIU benefits, our legal team can help you to calculate your combined ratings with our free VA disability rating calculator.
Why is a 60% disability rating important?
A 60% rating is important for TDIU benefits because it is the minimum rating that you must receive before you can qualify for these benefits.
As discussed above, if you have one service-connected disability rated at 60%, then you may be eligible for these benefits. However, a 60% rating is also important if you have multiple service-connected disabilities that meet the below conditions. If you meet these conditions, your multiple disabilities can be combined and considered as one disability that would need to meet a 60% rating TDIU qualification.
These conditions are:
- Upper or Lower Extremity Disability: One or both of your arms or one or both of your legs are disabled.
- Single Accident Disabilities: You were in an accident during military service, and you have multiple disabilities that resulted from this single accident.
- Disabilities Affecting One Body System: One of your internal body systems is impacted by several service-connected disabilities.
- Combat-Related Injuries: You suffered multiple injuries during a combat-related action.
- Disabilities Sustained as a Prisoner of War: You were a prisoner of war and you have multiple disabilities that have resulted from the time you were held captive.
What disabilities qualify for a 60% rating?
If you are a veteran with a disability who is not able to obtain or maintain gainful employment, then you should look into whether your disability qualifies for a 60% rating either on its own or when combined with another condition.
Here are a few common conditions that veterans suffer from that can qualify for a 60% rating:
Sciatica is pain that occurs across the sciatic nerve. This nerve travels from your lower back area, throughout your hips, bottom, and legs. Sciatica is usually triggered when the spine narrows or a herniated disk squeezes the sciatic nerve resulting in swelling, numbness, and pain.
The VA can assign a disability rating between 10% to 80% for sciatica. If your sciatic nerve is seriously paralyzed with noted muscular atrophy, you should qualify for a 60% rating and could receive TDIU benefits if your symptoms prevent you from working.
Meniere’s disease is a condition that affects the inner ear, leading to hearing loss or vertigo.
The VA can assign a disability rating between 30% to 100% for this condition. If you suffer from Meniere’s disease and your hearing is affected to the point where you experience vertigo and cerebellar gait with or without tinnitus, between 1 and 4 instances monthly, then you may qualify for a 60% rating.
Neck or Lumbosacral Strain
Neck or cervical strain is a pain in the muscles and tendons of the neck area. Many veterans suffer from this condition due to the injuries they receive in military service. If you suffer from whiplash, disc injury, a pinched nerve, or damage to the spinal cord, you may experience neck pain that could qualify you for disability benefits.
Lumbosacral strain is a pain in the lower back due to injured muscles and tendons in this area. Many veterans experience this condition due to straining or injuring their lower back from in-service duties or combat.
The VA can assign you a 60% disability rating for neck or lumbosacral strain If you have debilitating occurrences of either condition for a minimum of six weeks within the past year.
Knee Flexion Limitation
Knee flexion limitation is the reduced ability to move your knee due to knee injury. Veterans who experience knee injuries during military service may now suffer this condition.
The VA assigns a 60% disability rating to veterans who experience limited knee flexion at an angle of 45 degrees or more.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that causes joint inflammation and damage to your internal and external body systems. Veterans experience this condition due to physical injury, chemical exposure, or trauma during service.
The VA disability rating for rheumatoid arthritis ranges from 20% to 100%. You may be eligible for a 60% rating if you experience debilitating flare-ups of your symptoms four or more times within 12 months or less than four times over a longer period. You may also be eligible for a 60% rating if you experience weight loss and anemia paired with debilitating joint pain.
“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%.“
How Woods and Woods can help
If you are a veteran and you are not able to work because of a disability, you may be entitled to TDIU benefits. Unfortunately, the VA denies thousands of TDIU claims each year, making establishing your entitlement a difficult task.
Our experienced team has filed thousands of TDIU benefits appeals on behalf of our clients. Our team works with vocational experts who can help to prove if your conditions make you unemployable. Plus, you only pay if we win your claim. Contact us today for a free consultation to see if we can help with your case.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
VA math is tricky because it’s combining and subtracting from 100% ability instead of adding up disabilities. That means the 40% rating is 40% of the remaining 40% left after your first disability. That is only 16% which adds up to 76%, which rounds up to an 80% VA disability rating. Read more about VA math here.
A 60% rating is important because it is the minimum rating that you must receive before you can qualify for TDIU benefits,