Do I Need an Attorney for VA Individual Unemployability?
If you are seeking a 100% VA rating based on individual unemployability, you may be wondering whether you should “go it alone” or hire an attorney to help you pursue VA disability compensation at the 100% level. Although every situation is different, individual unemployability claims (also known as IU or TDIU) are one area of VA disability law where you would probably be well served to consult with a VA disability attorney.
Why an Attorney Is Helpful in VA Individual Unemployability Claims
VA Individual Unemployability claims may need an attorney for two reasons:
- VA does not liberally grant individual unemployability, and
- Individual unemployability claims are complex from a factual and legal standpoint.
Let’s look at both of these reasons in more detail so you can decide for yourself whether you want some legal help as you tackle your individual unemployability claim.
Individual Unemployability Claims Are Hard To Win
If you are able to win service connection for your disabilities, that does not mean VA will necessarily take into account the full effect those disabilities have on your ability to earn a living. That is especially true when you are seeking Individual Unemployability benefits. The VA denies a large portion of individual unemployability claims. Although there are several reasons why this is probably the case, let’s get right down to it: money.
Individual Unemployability Claims Mean a Big Increase in Monthly Disability Compensation Payments
If you are rated at 70%, an increase to 100% will more than double your monthly disability compensation payment. As an example, a single veteran with no children would see an increase of $1,572.12 per month, from $1,334.71 to $2,906.83 per month.
That sounds great, but because of the way VA math works, it is difficult to go from 70% to 100% based on schedular ratings of your disabilities. If you aren’t familiar with VA math and how combined ratings work, check out our earlier article that explains it in more detail.
That’s why Individual Unemployability is so powerful for veterans; it allows a way for a substantial increase in compensation that many times would not be possible otherwise. By keeping the percentage of successful individual unemployability claims low, VA can ensure that most veterans never receive benefits at the 100% level.
Because the success rate for those claiming individual unemployability is less than those with other types of VA disability claims, you need to make sure you present a strong case showing that your service connected disabilities prevent you from performing substantial gainful employment. In other words, eliminate every possible weakness in the claim to make it harder for VA to deny it.
Of course, that is sometimes easier said than done, which leads us to the second reason an attorney may be a good idea for your individual unemployability claim.
VA Individual Unemployability Claims are Some of the Most Complex VA Disability Claims
When VA is deciding whether your service connected disabilities make you unable to perform substantial gainful employment, that encompasses two separate but related questions.
The first is a medical question. How severe are your disabilities? What types of physical limitations do those disabilities create? What mental or cognitive limitations do they create? There are various ways to establish these limitations through lay and medical evidence. You will probably need a combination of both to create a compelling case for a grant.
The second is a vocational question. That involves taking your physical and mental limitations from your service connected disabilities and considering their impact in the workplace context. If you cannot bend or lift heavy objects, that will limit the number of occupations for which you are qualified. Similarly, if you have service connected PTSD, your mental state may prevent you from performing work that involves stress or intensive interpersonal interaction.
While it may seem common sense to you that your PTSD prevents you from working in a high pressure sales environment, or that your back injury prevents you from working in certain occupations that involve lifting, VA does not apply a common sense approach. They will likely require the opinion of a vocational expert, who is a person with training and expert knowledge of the various occupations in our national economy and the physical and cognitive requirements for each. They can then compare your limitations to those occupational requirements to render an opinion on your ability to work.
There are many small pieces to this overall puzzle. Missing one of them may result in a denial.
Veterans With Individual Unemployability Claims Have Enough to Deal With Already
If you are a veteran who is unable to work because of his or her disabilities, that means you already struggle on a daily basis as it is. Adding the responsibility and stress of proving one of the most complex of VA disability claims may not be a good idea. Many times, this is more difficult and stressful than working.
If that is your situation, you should at least consult with a veterans disability attorney to see if you may benefit from hiring someone who understands this complex process. We are always interested to see if we can help veterans, especially those who disabilities are severe enough that they can no longer work and provide for their families.
If you would like to learn more about what we might be able to do in your particular claim, please reach out to us through our website or give us a call.
Travis Studdard is an attorney who focuses on representing veterans in VA disability compensation claims. He regularly writes about issues that are important to veterans and their families.
You can subscribe to his Veterans Disability channel on YouTube.