VA has several different ratings for service connected PTSD. Many veterans receive a 70% rating because their PTSD causes substantial problems for them, occupationally and/or socially.
A number of veterans at the 70% rating level for PTSD do not realize that they are likely overlooking additional benefits. If you are at the 70% level or are applying to get that, you really need to think about a possible 100% rating through TDIU or individual unemployability.
You may have a single service connected disability with a single disability rating. Or, you may have more than one service connected disability and a combined rating.
In most cases, VA pays you benefits based on that single disability rating or combined disability rating. But, TDIU allows you to draw benefits for a 100 percent rating even when VA math does not result in a 100 percent combined rating.
The idea behind total disability individual unemployability (TDIU) is that the limitations from your service connected condition or conditions prevent you from maintaining a job. If they do that, then you are essentially 100 percent occupationally disabled. As a result, VA pays you at a 100 percent rating.
One of the most critical factors in TDIU claims is how your service connected disabilities affect your ability to work. Some service connected disabilities affect your ability to physically perform the job. PTSD often affects someone’s ability to mentally perform the job or to interact with others.
What does it take to get a 70% PTSD rating?
VA uses diagnostic codes to assign ratings to all different conditions. It will help to discuss the diagnostic code used to rate PTSD so that you can understand what a 70 percent rating means.
For a 70 percent rating, the PTSD diagnostic code states:
- Occupational and social impairment, with deficiencies in most areas, such as work, school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood, due to such symptoms as: suicidal ideation; obsessional rituals which interfere with routine activities; speech intermittently illogical, obscure, or irrelevant; near-continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function independently, appropriately and effectively; impaired impulse control (such as unprovoked irritability with periods of violence); spatial disorientation; neglect of personal appearance and hygiene; difficulty in adapting to stressful circumstances (including work or a worklike setting); inability to establish and maintain effective relationships.
The focus of the diagnostic code is on occupational and social impairment. This means VA focuses on how your PTSD affects your ability to work and your ability to maintain relationships.
There are many different rating levels for PTSD. If you would like some more specific information on that, I would suggest reading this article which discusses all of those ratings and how VA rates PTSD.
Why could a 70% PTSD rating qualify me for TDIU?
I mentioned the 70 percent rating criteria for PTSD in above. Walking through those criteria should help to clarify why a 70% PTSD rating will often qualify a veteran for a 100% TDIU rating.
If you are rated at the 70% level, many of the factors that go into that rating focus on your performance within the workplace and your inability to perform satisfactorily at your place of employment.
With deficiencies in most areas, such as work, school, family relations, judgement, thinking, or mood
This is the general statement that VA makes at the beginning of the 70% PTSD level. Again, VA focuses on impairment in work and relationships.
They also mention judgment, thinking and mood. All three of these factors affect your ability to get or maintain a job. You need good judgment and thinking ability to work. Even if your PTSD does not affect your judgment or your thinking, the effect that it has on your mood often makes it difficult to work with others.
VA then lists out a number of different symptoms associated with PTSD that could qualify you at the 70% level. I will discuss a few of these symptoms below:
Obsessional rituals which interfere with routine activities
If your PTSD causes you to take longer to do routine activities, this could certainly affect your ability to maintain employment. Many employers require routine tasks to be done on a certain schedule.
Near-continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function independently, appropriately and effectively
Many people report panic or depression as a symptom of PTSD. At the 70% level, VA talks about panic or depression that is near continuous and affects the ability to function.
Many jobs in the workplace require you to function independently and they require you to be effective and appropriate in your interactions with others. If your PTSD prevents you from functioning independently or effectively, it probably also affects your ability to work at these jobs.
Impulse control affects many veterans who suffer from PTSD. VA considers impulse control as a factor at the 70 percent level. With this factor, VA focuses on irritability and periods of violence.
Almost all employers expect a certain standard of behavior in the workplace. Most jobs require you to work with other people. When your PTSD causes you to lose control of your emotions, that will often prevent you from working.
Neglect of personal appearance and hygiene
Sometimes, PTSD affects a veteran’s personal appearance and hygiene. Most employers expect you to come to the workplace looking professional, clean and presentable.
Many veterans who suffer from PTSD simply do not have the energy or the attention to some of those things that many of us do every day in terms of our personal hygiene and appearance. But, employers will judge you based on your hygiene and appearance.
Customers judge you as well. If your PTSD causes you to have difficulties maintaining your appearance and hygiene, it will probably impact your ability to function in the workplace.
Difficulty in adapting to stressful circumstances (including work and worklike settings)
What job is not stressful at some point? If your PTSD prevents you from adapting or responding to stress from work, you might qualify for a 70% PTSD rating.
But, that inability to respond to stress at work will often prevent you from working entirely. If so, you could qualify for TDIU because of your inability to maintain employment.
In the workplace, you have to maintain effective relationships with employers, supervisors, coworkers, customers, and vendors. Your PTSD may prevent you from establishing and maintaining those relationships effectively. If so, this obviously affects your ability to work because most jobs require you to interact with other people.
How do I get to the 100% VA rating with my 70% rating for PTSD?
As you can see, a 70% rating will often make it difficult if not nearly impossible for you to find employment. If you find yourself in this situation, you need to strongly consider filing for TDIU to try for a 100% rating.
If you filed for TDIU with a 70% PTSD rating and were denied, you should strongly consider filing an appeal. TDIU is one of the most complicated parts of veterans disability benefits law. So, you should consider talking to an attorney about your claim if you are filing or considering a TDIU appeal.