In the United States, the brave men and women who serve our country often deal with disabilities related to their service. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers disability benefits in the form of monthly tax-free compensation for veterans who have been diagnosed with a physical or mental health condition that is linked to their military service.
Many disabled veterans are still able to work. If you are unable to work because of your service-connected disability, however, you may be eligible for a special type of disability compensation known as a total disability based on individual unemployability, or TDIU. If you qualify for individual unemployability (IU), then you may be entitled to benefits at the same level as a veteran with a 100% disability rating – even if your combined rating does not reach 100%.
If you are unable to sustain gainful employment due to your service-connected disability, you may be eligible for individual unemployability benefits. At Bross & Frankel, we work hard to get disabled veterans the compensation that they deserve. Give our law office a call today to schedule a free claim review with a member of our legal team.
What Is TDIU?
Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability is a special category of disability benefits available to disabled vets. In essence, it allows you to receive “total disability” benefits if you are unable to work due to your service-connected disability. In other words, you can be deemed “totally disabled” even if you do not have a 100% disability rating from the VA.
For example, an Army veteran has a 60% disability rating due to a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis connected to his service. Since his discharge, he hasn’t been able to hold a steady job because of his PTSD symptoms, including difficulty concentrating, angry outbursts, and excessive drinking. His doctor told him that he should retire and focus on his mental health and recovery. In this situation, he may be considered unemployable. The VA may increase his disability benefits to the same rate as a 100% disabled veteran.
TDIU benefits include both health care and financial compensation. The benefit rate is based on the current schedule for a 100% combined disability rating.
Who Is Eligible for TDIU?
To qualify for TDIU, you must first meet the basic requirements for veterans’ disability benefits – being a veteran of the U.S. military and having one or more service-connected disabilities. In addition, you must:
- Have at least one service-connected disability that is rated at 60% or higher, or 2 or more service-connected disabilities with at least one rated at 40% or more, with a combined rating of 70% or higher; AND
- Be unable to engage in substantially gainful employment because of your service-connected disability.
For purposes of TDIU, substantially gainful employment means a job that pays above the poverty threshold. Marginal employment – odd jobs – do not count as substantially gainful employment.
Importantly, if you do not meet the schedular criteria based on the rating schedule, you may still qualify for individual unemployability benefits if you can prove that your VA disability rating does not accurately reflect the limitations of your service-connected condition. For example, if you cannot hold steady employment that pays more than the poverty threshold because you are frequently in and out of the hospital, your New Jersey veterans disability benefits lawyer can argue that you should qualify for TDIU even though your 50 percent disability rating does not meet the criteria.
What Is The Benefit Amount for Individual Unemployability?
TDIU benefits are paid at the same rate as benefits for a 100% disability rating. Based on the 2022 VA disability benefits chart, the monthly payment for a single veteran with no dependents is $3,332.06 per month.
Veterans with dependents – such as a spouse, children, and/or parents – will receive a larger monthly benefit. For example, a veteran with a spouse and 1 child will receive $3,653.89 per month in individual unemployability benefits. For each additional child under the age of 18, the veteran will receive 92.31 in TDIU benefits.
How to Apply for TDIU
To apply for individual unemployability benefits, you will need to file two forms with the VA: Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability (VA Form 21-8940) and A Request for Employment Information in Connection with Claim for Disability Benefits (VA Form 21-4192). These forms may be submitted online, mailed, faxed, or submitted online at a local VA Regional Office.
You will also have to submit evidence to support your disability claim. This may include medical records, doctor’s reports, your employment history, medical opinions, a Social Security disability determination, a vocational assessment, and even lay opinions about your ability to work. Submitting medical evidence is particularly important, as the VA will analyze this information to determine if you are truly unable to engage in substantially gainful employment based on your service-connected condition.
If your disability rating decision does meet the minimum requirements for individual unemployability benefits, then you can present additional evidence to overcome your schedular rating. A skilled New Jersey veterans disability benefits lawyer will work with vocational experts, qualified physicians, and other experts to put together an argument in support of your entitlement to TDIU.
Can I Get Individual Unemployability Benefits If I Am Working?
Possibly. While TDIU benefits are limited to veterans whose service-connected disabilities prevent them from holding steady employment, you may still qualify even if you are currently working. This may occur if you are working in marginal employment (odd jobs) and earning less than the federal poverty threshold, or if you are in a protected or sheltered work environment where your employer makes special accommodations without reducing pay or benefits.
These cases can be more challenging than a typical TDIU case, and it is often harder to get favorable decisions when a veteran is still working. Reach out to Bross & Frankel today to talk to an NJ veterans disability lawyer about your disability claim.
Can the VA Terminate My TDIU Benefits?
Yes. TDIU benefits are not necessarily permanent. The VA may reduce or terminate individual unemployability benefits if they fail to submit VA Form 21-4140 each year if they are able to maintain substantially gainful employment, and/or if a veteran’s service-connected disabilities improve, leading to a lower disability rating.
If you fall into one of these categories and the VA has proposed reducing or terminating your disability benefits, a disability benefits lawyer can help. In New Jersey or Pennsylvania, call Bross & Frankel to schedule a free consultation with a veterans disability benefits attorney today.
Can I Collect Different Types of Disability Benefits While on TDIU?
Yes. If you qualify for other benefits, such as Social Security disability, then you can receive both individual unemployability compensation from the VA as well as disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. For these types of benefits, there is no offset. If you receive another type of benefits – such as payments from disability insurance – then you should consult with a lawyer to determine how it will impact your TDIU and SSDI or SSI benefits.
Bross & Frankel represents individuals with disabilities who are seeking Social Security, long-term disability, short-term disability, and veterans disability benefits. Our law firm can help you determine your eligibility for each type of compensation, and advocate for you throughout the disability determination process. To learn more, give our law office a call for a free initial consultation.
How We Can Help
The VA benefits system can be challenging to navigate, particularly for veterans who are dealing with a service-connected disability that makes it hard for them to maintain a job that pays above the poverty level. In this situation, you may qualify for total disability benefits even if your disability rating falls below 100%. An experienced attorney can help you with your claim for TDIU.
Based in Cherry Hill, NJ, Bross & Frankel represents disabled veterans throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania with their Department of Veterans Affairs disability claims. While we cannot represent veterans until an initial disability determination has been made, we are happy to help veterans understand their legal rights and options. If you decide to appeal your disability determination or to file for TDIU benefits, we are here to help. To learn more or to schedule a free claim review with a New Jersey veterans disability lawyer, call us today at 856-795-8880 or fill out our online contact form.
Rich Frankel is the managing partner of Bross & Frankel. He is a member of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars. He has focused exclusively on disability and social security benefits since 2005.
Mr. Frankel joined what is now Bross & Frankel after having watched his father struggle with disability, fighting a lengthy illness. Mr. Frankel founded the firm’s veteran’s law practice and substantially grew the social security disability practice, focusing Bross & Frankel’s ability to fight for all of the disability benefits available to his clients.
Mr. Frankel additionally fights for clients in court, obtaining frequent victories in Social Security appeals and against insurance companies in Federal court.