Total Disability Individual Unemployability
The VA defines total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) as “part of VA’s disability compensation program that allows VA to pay certain Veterans compensation at the 100% rate, even though VA has not rated their service-connected disabilities at the 100% level.
General Requirement for Total Disability
The general requirements for total disability are that you must have a combined rating of at least 70 percent with at least one disability rated at 40 percent by its self. Or, you must have one disability rated by itself at 60 percent disabling. If you meet these percentage requirements and the service-connected disabilities are shown to prevent you from maintaining a regular job, then you probably have a strong case for total disability.
These are not the only circumstances under which you may qualify for TDIU. You may qualify for TDIU if any of your service connected disabilities keep you from being able to maintain gainful employment regardless of your disability rating.
There are many complicated factors that go into winning a TDIU claim. It is very important that you be aware of these factors and if you need assistance, call our office at 1-888-878-9350 to learn more about how our attorneys can help you get veterans disability benefits.
Not all Levels of Impairment Are Created Equal
With a TDIU analysis, the VA looks at your particular circumstances to determine how the disabilities affect your ability to work. A TDIU disability benefits claim is more subjective than a regular disability benefits claim based solely on a rating schedule meaning there is more room for interpretation in a TDIU disability claim. It is very important that you analyze your individual work and educational factors to determine whether or not your service-connected disabilities make you incapable of working.
The VA does NOT base it’s decision on the average person’s ability to work. Instead, they work from the assumption that each Veteran is unique and your individual skills, work history and education should be considered in determining your ability to work. For example, if you were a concert pianist and you played the piano professionally, and you suffered an amputation of several fingers, this would clearly render you incapable of maintaining your occupation. On the other hand, if you were a truck driver, you could probably still work if you lost a few fingers. In other words, what makes one Veteran totally disabled may not be the same thing that makes another Veteran totally disabled. It all depends on your individual circumstances.
When Should I Apply for TDIU?
When you cannot maintain steady employment.
TDIU indicates a level of employability that is less than 100 percent. In practical terms, if you have a combined disability rating of 70 percent with at least one disability rated at 40 percent and these disabilities make in impossible for you to keep a job, then you would be well advised to seek total disability individual unemployability.
Keep in mind that the higher you are on the combined rating scale, the less difference adding additional smaller disabilities to your service-connected list of disabilities will make in your combined rating. Also keep in mind that if you are rated at 60 percent for one disability alone and this disability makes it impossible for you to keep a job, then you should also consider filing a claim for total disability.
When your disabilities make it impossible for you to earn more than the poverty limit.
TDIU does not require you to be incapable of doing any type of work but you must be unable to maintain gainful employment. Marginal employment is generally not considered to be gainful employment and it should not prevent you from getting a rating of total disability individual unemployability. Marginal employment is defined as an earned annual income that does not exceed the poverty threshold of $11,945 (as of 2012). In general, the Veterans’ Court has interpreted the term “substantially gainful occupation” as meaning an occupation that provides the Veteran with an annual income that exceeds the poverty threshold for one person, irrespective of the number of hours or days that the Veteran actually works.
When any service-connected disability meets the TDIU minimum requirements.
There are times when you have a TDIU claim and you may not even be aware of it. There is automatically an implied claim for total disability when a claim for an increased rating meets the minimum requirements for total disability and the disabilities are service connected. In other words, if you were granted service-connection for a disability rated at 60 percent disabling by itself and the evidence before the VA also shows that this disability renders you incapable of working, then I recommend that you apply for total disability.
How Can Gang & Associates Help Me Get Disability Benefits?
Even if you do not meet the percentage requirements for TDIU, you should still consider a total disability claim if your service-connected disabilities render you incapable of maintaining a gainful occupation. It is true that VA is very reluctant to grant TDIU claims in situations where a Veteran does not meet the percentage requirements but the law allows for consideration of these TDIU claims on an extra-schedular basis. It just means that to win such a claim you need very strong evidence from a vocational expert and probably several medical experts as well. Also, your work circumstances must be very unique to justify granting such a rating. As a general rule, I strongly recommend that Veterans contact our office about making a claim for TDIU in any circumstance where their service-connected disability makes it impossible for them to maintain regular employment. We can put you in touch with medical and vocational experts who can help us make a strong disability benefits claim for TDIU.
You should also keep in mind that VA is not allowed to consider non-service-connected disabilities when determining TDIU. So in developing your TDIU claim, you must be able to separate the service-connected disabilities from the non-service-connected disabilities. This often means constructing a hypothetical analysis in determining whether or not the service-connected disability, standing alone, caused the Veteran to be unable to work. This is a complicated task and an area where an experienced veterans benefits attorney can be extremely valuable.
In general, our law firm fights for TDIU with strong evidence from a vocational expert to analyze your work history, your education, and your training. We look to determine whether or not the service-connected disabilities out-weigh your ability to perform the tasks necessary for your profession. We can also help you support these claims with strong medical opinions from medical experts who are of the opinion that your disabilities render you incapable of maintaining gainful employment.
If you are in a situation where your service-connected disabilities make it impossible for you to keep a job, then I strongly urge you to contact our office to discuss the ways in which our law firm may be able to help you win TDIU veterans disability benefits.