If you have service-connected disabilities that are preventing you from holding a job, you may qualify for total disability compensation even if the VA has not rated you 100 percent disabled.

Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU)

Once you successfully get through the application process for disability benefits with the VA, you will be rated on a scale from 10 to 100 percent disabled. The amount of compensation you receive depends on your rating. A rating of 100 percent will get you full benefits. However, there is another way to receive full benefits without a 100 percent rating called Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability, or TDIU.

In this scenario, the VA will pay full benefits to veterans who are found to be “unemployable” even if they are rated less than 100 percent disabled. These are disabled veterans who either cannot work or they are unable to stay employed to earn above the annual poverty level of $10,590 because of their service-connected disabilities. Veterans who are “marginally employed” with jobs that pay substantially less than the poverty level may also qualify for TDIU benefits. Also, veterans working for family businesses, such as on a farm, are considered to have “sheltered employment” and may be eligible for TDIU even if their income exceeds the poverty level.

To Qualify for TDIU, You Must Meet One of the Following Criteria:

  • You must have one service-connected disability that is rated at 60 percent or higher.
  • You must have two or more service-connected disabilities with one rated at 40 percent or higher with a combined rating of 70 percent or higher.
  • You must have a group of disabilities that relate to each other. The combined rating of this group will be considered as one disability to establish either the 60 percent or 40 percent disability rating.
  • You must be unable to secure a substantially gainful occupation that either earns above the poverty level set by the U.S. government ($10,590 in 2010) or is outside of a sheltered working environment.
  • Your service-connected disabilities must be the primary cause for your inability to work.

This is the standard qualification criteria. However, unemployability is also considered on a case by case basis.  For example, if your service-connected disabilities do not meet the TDIU rating criteria, the VA will consider other special circumstances unique to your case to determine entitlement of full benefits. The VA also considers whether a non-military person with a similar vocational and educational background as yours would be unemployable if in your situation.

TDIU May Not be a Permanent Benefit

Although not typical, the VA may require that you undergo periodic medical examinations to verify whether or not you are still unable to work because of your service-connected disabilities.

Likewise, the VA will want to know if you do get a steady job. Should you reenter the workforce and maintain your job at a significant level for 12 months (substantial gainful employment) the VA will review your ability to work to determine if your TDIU benefit should be discontinued.  Or, your benefit may simply be reduced down to the level of your actual combined disability rating. Generally, this review process does not result in any overpayments of compensation benefits.

While you are receiving full TDIU benefits you can also pursue educational and vocational training to help you overcome your disabilities so that you can work.

Apply for Benefits with an Alpha Advocate – Vets Helping Vets

Our Alpha Advocates evaluate all claims to ensure that the veterans we serve receive the highest level of compensation for their service-connected disabilities, including whether or not there is an opportunity to submit a claim for total disability benefits based on individual unemployability.

If you are already receiving disability compensation from the VA but are unable to work because of your service-connected disabilities, the Alpha team can help you prove eligibility for full disability benefits based on your unemployability.

Please contact Alpha to discuss your options or to get started on your claim for TDIU.

Note: All representation coordinated by Alpha is provided by our employees, the Advocates, who are accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). No private organization that trains and employs accredited agents has been legally recognized by the VA for the purposes of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims. This work must be done by the Advocates themselves and not organizations.