Being Unemployed Isn’t Good Enough for TDIU
Veterans with severe service-connected disabilities often find it difficult to obtain and maintain employment. But, if these veterans do not have a 100% rating, then the benefits that VA pays them do not reflect benefits for total disability.
What happens when a veteran with a service service connected disability becomes unemployed? Can that veteran qualify for a 100% total disability rating with VA?
If I am unemployed and have a 60 or 70 percent VA rating, do I qualify for a 100 percent TDIU rating?
As I have mentioned in previous articles, TDIU allows you to qualify for benefits at the 100 percent rating level in certain situations. One of those situations is a single rating of 60 percent or higher. The second situation is a total rating of 70 percent.
But, having the 60 or 70 percent rating is not enough. You also have to prove unemployability. After all TDIU stands for “total disability individual unemployability”.
The total disability is the 100 percent rating portion. In other words, you get a total disability rating when you qualify for TDIU.
The individual unemployability means that that you must prove unemployability to qualify for this rating. It is fairly easy to confuse “unemployed” with “unemployable”. Because of that, I want to clear up a common misconception that some veterans have.
That misconception is , “Well, I’m unemployed with a 60 or 70 percent rating). Therefore, I am entitled to TDIU benefits.” Unfortunately, that that’s not how VA law reads or works. Just because you’re unemployed, does not mean you automatically are entitled to receive TDIU benefits.
What is the difference between unemployed and unemployable?
“Unemployed” and “unemployable” are very similar words, but they have different meanings under VA’s rules. “Unemployed” has to do with your current status. If you do not currently have a job, you are unemployed.
“Unemployable” focuses on whether you are able to be employed. If you are disabled from work as a result of an injury or a medical condition, you might be unemployable.
To qualify for TDIU under VA’s rules, it is not enough to demonstrate that you are “unemployed”. You need to demonstrate that you are “unemployable”.
If a veteran with a severe service-connected disability gets laid off or fired for some reason, they are unemployed at that point. But, that does not necessarily mean they are unemployable under VA’s definition. VA’s definition of unemployable for TDIU purposes focuses or your ability to get and keep substantial, gainful employment.
Do I have to be unemployed to qualify for TDIU benefits?
Not necessarily. Usually, you have to be “unemployed” to be “unemployable”. But, that is not always the case.
Certain types of job which are often known as accommodated jobs or sheltered employment may not count in determining whether you are unemployable. So, you might be unemployable under VA’s rules even though you are actually “employed”.
The reason that you can sometimes prove that you are unemployable even when you have a job is that VA focuses on your ability to get and maintain substantial, gainful employment. For VA’s purposes, there are certain jobs that are not considered substantial gainful employment.
To receive TDIU, do I have to prove that I am permanently and totally disabled?
Sometimes, you might have a service-connected condition that causes you to be totally disabled for a short time. One example of this is a medical procedure that takes you out of work for a couple of weeks.
It is not going to be enough to prove to VA that you are unemployable for a relatively short time. You have to prove that your lack of work is sort of a relatively permanent state.
Do not just sit back and think you’ve got this one in the bag just because you are out of work now and are a service connected veteran with a 60 percent rating or higher. If you take that approach, you will probably be very disappointed when you receive that TDIU decision.
Proving TDIU often takes some effort. Because being “unemployed” is not enough, you will need evidence to show that you are “unemployable”. I discussed in more detail what evidence you will likely need in this article.
What if I want help with my TDIU claim?
If you have questions or need help, we would be glad to look at your particular situation to see if we can assist you. Our mission is to help veterans with their claims and their appeals and to represent them when we can.
The best way to start the process of getting help is to notify us that you would like a free consultation with a veterans disability attorney. This article discusses more about how our free veterans disability benefits consultation process works.
If you would like to start the free consultation process, it only takes a few minutes. Just call our office at (770) 214-8885 or complete and submit our free consultation request form.
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.