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.

Rita BarnesRita Barnes
00:03 20 Jan 22
This is a great group of people who really care about your well being. They all treated me as though I was family and helped me with my work comp case in more ways than the average would have.Thank you Jason and Thank you Tina! For doing an awesome job.
Cortex ButlerCortex Butler
18:09 29 Dec 21
I am a Veteran of United States Air Force and was awarded my first 30% in 1996 and have been fighting for my rating for 26 years I came to Perkins and Studdard in 2019 while my mom was in a terrible incident and was given to much anesthesia and through GODS Grace she was spared her life, She is disabled since 2018 and I have been struggling with my life and issues and yet I didn’t call the law firm every 10 minutes or call being rude anytime, I mentioned this as I got to know Jessica more than just a phone call and Mr Studdard was always available when not working on other cases or in court, They always called back and Never had to do a call back, My Review is Simple in Life there peaks and valleys and it doesn’t stop because you have issues, Perkins & Studdard took my case in 2019 in 2021 I received my 100% from VA, I Was Never Rude, I was Never Promised Success, I Was Never Lied too and I was Always Treated with Respect, Friendliness, and Kindness the Real Stuff not a (Money Thing) If You want a firm that Cares about the Client and will work on your case even through a pandemic, Will not lie, will not promise anything will communicate your case and will Give you their Best ALWAYS THIS IS THE Best Law Firm for VETS HANDS DOWN Perkins and Studdard THERE IS NO OTHER 100% we had 5 calls Total Case That’s Taking Care Of Business
annetteMomma nokesannetteMomma nokes
14:29 12 Sep 16
Jason and his paralegal Lisa were on point and on top of their game when it came to handling my worker's comp. injury case. I tried going it alone and the insurance carrier pushed me around. They denied extra physical therapy. They denied injections the doctor recommended to ease my pain. When I turned my case over to Jason things turned around, QUICK. They were at all times attentive and on top of my case. I cannot recommend Jason and his staff enough. If you are hurt at work, this is the firm you want on YOUR side.
Sheila KirklinSheila Kirklin
23:11 12 May 16
Jason Perkins, was my lawyer in a workers comp. case, my case has settled now, and I am very happy for all Jason and his office hard work on my case, he was always there to help me out with any questions that I had or help I needed. Jason is a excellent lawyer and if I ever need another one I would only go to Perkins,Because I believe they would be able to help me in any situation I am in need of..
Anna PabonAnna Pabon
23:16 13 Sep 15
I recommend Perkins Law Firm. Everyone I came in contact with there was very nice. Kim was very helpful and any time I had a question she made sure I got an answer. Ann Margaret really took the time to explain things to me.

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