Nexus in VA Unemployability Claims
Succeeding in a VA unemployability claim makes a huge difference in your VA disability benefits. Even if you have a 90% combined disability rating, you probably receive somewhere around $2,000 per month. If your rating jumps to a 100% rating because you qualify for TDIU, you will receive almost $1200 more per month.
The exact amounts vary since you have to figure in what benefits you receive for your dependents. But, the increase from 90% to 100% is always somewhere around a 60% increase in your benefit amount.
Because of what is on the line, you need to be sure you understand the importance of your TDIU claim. In reviewing more and more Ratings Decisions on TDIU claims, I have come to realize that many veterans lose these claims because they fail to recognize the importance of nexus.
You may have seen some of our other articles concerning the issue of nexus, whether in general or with respect to a particular type of VA disability claim. I’m here to tell you that nexus is just as important when you file for VA unemployability benefits.
What is nexus?
Nexus is really just a link or connection between your current disability and your military service. If you want to service connect PTSD, you must show a relationship between an in service stressor and a current PTSD diagnosis. If you have degenerative disc disease in your lumbar spine, you must show a link between an event or injury in service and the current disability.
The same is true in a claim for VA unemployability benefits. Unfortunately, a lot of times I see veterans overlooking nexus in their TDIU claim.
In their mind (and sometimes in what they are submitting to VA), they’re saying, “I’m a service-connected veteran with disabilities and I’m unemployable. Therefore, obviously I should get unemployability benefits.”
Shouldn’t I qualify for TDIU if I have a 60% or higher VA rating and am unemployable?
Unfortunately, it does not work that way. There’s more that you have to prove, and what you have to prove is nexus.
Another way to say that is just because you are unemployable and you have a service-connected disability, that’s not the end of the story or the end of the question. You must show a link between your service-connected disabilities and your unemployable status.
Many different things could make you unemployable. You might have a disability that is not service-connected that could keep you from getting a job. You might simply choose not to work. But, these causes of unemployability would not create the link necessary to qualify for TDIU.
Another way of thinking about that is you need to demonstrate that you are unemployable because of your service-connected disabilities. Let’s take an example. Suppose you cannot work because your service-connected PTSD affects your concentrations and causes you to get angry with your co-workers. Establishing the link between your service-connected disability or disabilities and your unemployability should help you qualify for TDIU.
It is not enough just to have a service-connected disability and not have a job or be unable to find a job. You have to show that the reason you are in fact unemployable is related to your service-connected disabilities. If you can do that, then you should have a solid VA TDIU claim at that point.
What else do I have to establish to prove my TDIU claim?
TDIU is one of the most difficult types of VA claims. In addition to establishing nexus, you also have to establish unemployability.
This may require you to hire a vocational expert to show that your injuries prevent you from working. You also have to worry that VA may try to claim that your unemployability is due to non-service connected disabilities.
Some veterans are concerned to ask questions about your TDIU claim. With the time it takes to get through the VA claims process, you want to try to get your VA claim right the first time if you can. Getting your questions answered can help you do that.
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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.
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