How a 40% VA Back Disability Rating Can Help With 100% TDIU

Many veterans develop low back conditions as a result of their military service.  Veterans who apply for VA benefits for these conditions often receive a rating between 10 percent and 40 percent.  Some veterans receive a 50 percent rating, but that difficult to qualify for.

Often, low back these low back conditions worsen over time.  When service-connected conditions worsen, veterans are often eligible for an increased rating through VA.

Also, the worsening of a low back condition can make it very difficult to work.  Many veterans work blue collar jobs.  What happens to these veterans when their service-connected back condition worsens to the point that it prevents them from doing their jobs.

Man getting off couch with back pain Why a 40 percent back rating matters if your back condition prevents you from working?

Serious low back conditions make it difficult to perform all kinds of work.  Many people with serious back conditions need to change positions regularly.  They also have difficulty lift, bending, andtwisting

A 40 percent rating for a low back disability is very high on the ratings scale for that particular disability. Veterans with a 40 percent rating will have pretty significant limitations in terms of what they can do physically  These limitations limit their employment opportunities.

Unfortunately, a 40 percent rating does not really replace the income a veteran could earn from working.  Individual unemployability (TDIU) is the concept that VA has in place for when service-connected conditions make a veteran unemployable.

A 40 percent rating is important if you try to qualify for TDIU.  To qualify for TDIU, you need:

    1. A single rating of 60 percent, or
    2. At least one rating of 40 percent or higher and a total rating of 70 percent or higher.

Veterans with a 40 percent back rating and a combined rating of 70 percent or higher may qualify for TDIU benefits if they meet VA’s definition of unemployable.

What if my back rating is less than 40 percent but still prevents me from working?

If your back condition is less than 40 percent, there are still a couple of ways that you might use it to help you qualify for TDIU.

      1. If your back condition has worsened since you received your rating, you could file for an increased rating and TDIU.
      2. Even if your back condition remains less than 40 percent, you could qualify for TDIU if you have another service connected condition rated at least 40 percent and a total VA rating of at least 70 percent.  You could still use the limitations from your back condition and your other service-connected conditions to prove to VA that you meet their definition of unemployable.

How would I prove TDIU to VA when I have a 40 percent back rating?

Proving TDIU can be tough.  You will want to provide VA with evidence of how all of your service-connected conditions affect you and your ability to work.

Low back conditions are notorious for making it difficult to work.  Many people with serious low back conditions have to change positions from sitting to standing and back.  Many jobs do not allow you this flexibility.

Low back conditions often limit your ability to bend and lift and may prevent you from doing those jobs as well.  The ultimate question is going to be whether all of your service connected conditions prevent you from working.  This article I wrote talks some more about providing evidence of TDIU to VA.

What if I have a service connected low back condition and service connected PTSD?

Angry man with PTSD at work crumpling paper One situation we run across where two conditions can combine to really affect your ability to work is a low back injury and PTSD.  As I mentioned above, a serious low back condition will make it difficult to do most physically demanding activity.  That type of back condition may essentially limit someone to sedentary work.  Sedentary work is what most people think of as an office type job with very light lifting and mostly sitting instead of standing or walking.

By itself, that may not be enough to make someone unemployable under VA’s standards.  But, PTSD often makes it difficult for people to create or maintain relationships, to interact with others, and to deal with stress and criticism.  Because of this, PTSD can make it difficult to work in a closed office environment.

So, one condition (the back injury) may limit you to office type work.  The other condition (PTSD) may prevent that office type work.  This can often mean that you are unemployable because of the  combined effect of both conditions.

Other conditions can have similar effects when combined with limitations from back conditions.  But, PTSD is the condition that we most commonly see having this effect because it can make it difficult to do work in an office environment.

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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