Combined Effects of VA Disabilities in TDIU Claims

Many veterans have multiple disabilities as a result of their military service.  Unfortunately, VA math for combined ratings often punishes these veterans since the combined rating that they receive is almost always less than the sum of their individual ratings.

But, one part of VA’s rules allows veterans to actually use math in their favor.  TDIU is an area where VA recognizes that a veteran may be entitled to a 100 percent disability rating even though their individual ratings do not add up to 100 percent.  In this article, I will talk a little bit about why VA does that in TDIU claims.

Why does VA assign the ratings that they do?

VA uses a part of the Code of Federal Regulations to assign ratings for disabilities.  These regulations discuss all sorts of different medical conditions as well as the different ratings levels that may be assigned for those conditions.

The basic idea behind the rating system is that the rating reflects how a particular condition affects your ability to earn money.  So, VA is really looking at economic impairment when it assigns a rating.  TDIU is a fundamental part of that rating system because it assesses what happens when service-connected disabilities make you unemployable.

How does TDIU make VA math work in my favor?

Most of the time, VA math works against you.  For example, you might have the following ratings:

  • 40%
  • 20%
  • 20%
  • 10%
  • 10%

If you add up those ratings, you get to 100 percent.  However, VA math does not work that way.  Using VA’s math for combining ratings, those 5 ratings give you a 70 percent rating.  So, VA math really seems to hurt you.

But TDIU allows you to use VA math in your favor in a couple of ways.  Consider those ratings again.  A veteran who has at least one rating of 40 percent and a combined rating of 70 percent can potentially qualify for TDIU if the veteran meets VA’s definition of unemployable.  If the veteran qualifies for TDIU, the veteran receives benefits at the 100 percent rating level.

Why does VA’s math make sense in a TDIU claim?

One of the things I see a lot is the combined effects of disabilities.  What I mean by that is that multiple disabilities can cause a greater degree of earnings impairment than individual disabilities would alone.

Let me explain a little bit more about what I mean.  Consider the situation of a veteran who has a back disability and service-connected PTSD.  I mentioned this situation in a previous article because I see it fairly often.

Taken alone, these two disabilities might not impair the veteran’s earnings significantly.  But, together they can rule out almost all work because the veteran is restricted from doing physical jobs by the back injury and the PTSD often prevents the veteran from doing less physical work because that less physical work often involves more stress and interaction with people.

So, when you are a veteran that suffers from two or more disabilities, you may often suffer greater earnings impairment than VA’s rating indicate.  Unfortunately, VA math for combined ratings usually assumes exactly the opposite.  They assume that your second disability is not as disabling as your first and your third is not as disabling as your second and so on.  So, you end up with a lower overall rating in most cases.

Will VA automatically realize this and give me a rating that reflects how my service-connected conditions affect me?

No.  There are a couple of things working against veterans when they try to use VA math in their favor:

  1. VA really only uses the “sum can be greater than the parts” math in TDIU claims.  In pretty much all other claims, they are going to use their regular VA math and say that the sum is less than the parts.  So, you will need to be a veteran with a 60 percent individual rating or a veteran with a combined rating of 70 percent and a least one individual rating of 40 percent to take advantage of this.
  2. Veterans will likely have to provide VA with evidence showing the combined effect of their conditions because VA’s system of evaluation does not usually take into account the combined effect of your conditions

Let me talk in more detail about that second point.  Lots of times, VA sends you to a doctor for one particular condition.  Let’s say they have you evaluated by a cardiologist for your heart condition.  Then, they send you to an orthopedic doctor to have your knees evaluated.

The orthopedic doctor will likely only look at the knees and not consider your heart.  The cardiologist will likely only consider your heart but not your knees.  For TDIU purposes, VA should consider the combined effect of these two conditions.  While each individual condition may not make you unemployable, you should qualify for TDIU is if your service-connected conditions combine to make you unemployable.

Because of this, you may need to develop your own evidence.  You could need a medical expert of conduct a general evaluation which considers all of your service-connected conditions.  Another way is to get the input of a vocational expert, who is someone that looks at the limitations imposed by your disabilities and then looks at the combined effect of those from a vocational or job standpoint

You need to make sure that VA considers the combined effect of your disabilities to make sure you have the best chance of succeeding in a TDIU claim.

What should I do if I need help?

TDIU is one of the most complicated areas of VA law.  You need to make sure that you file the write documents to apply for it and that you have the evidence to show VA that you meet its definition of unemployable as a result of your service-connected disabilities.

I have seen many veterans with serious service connected disabilities struggle to keep a job.  Because of that, our veterans disability team has made it a focus to help veterans with their TDIU claims.

If you would like us to review your TDIU claim to determine if we can help you, you can do that for free.  If you have questions about how our firms free consultation process works, just read this short article to find out more.

If you would like to go ahead and start our free consultation process, there are two easy ways to get started.  Just call our office at (770) 214-8885 or complete and submit our free consultation request form.

What if I have more questions about my VA claim?

I understand you want your VA claim to be done as quickly as possible. But remember the ultimate goal – to win your VA disability compensation claim.

You may eventually get there on your own, but it may be after a series of decisions by the Regional Office and Board of Veterans Appeals. Sometimes claims are appealed and remanded several times, which can cause a claim to drag on for years. If you are interested in avoiding unnecessary delay in your claim and want to do everything you can to maximize your chances of success, it is probably a good idea for you to consult with an accredited veterans disability attorney.

We would be happy to talk to you. If you would like a free consultation with our Perkins Studdard veterans disability attorneys just click here or give us a call to begin the process.

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.

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