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Veterans Law

60% VA Disability to 100% Unemployability (TDIU)

August 12, 2020

VA Disability Compensation Overview

A 60 percent VA disability rating is considered to be fairly severe. According to VA, disability compensation offers a monthly tax-free payment to veterans who got sick or injured while serving in the military and to veterans whose service made an existing condition worse.  You may qualify for VA disability benefits for physical conditions and mental health conditions.  To be eligible for VA disability compensation, the following must be true:

  • Served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training; and
  • Have a disability rating for your service-connected condition; and
  • Got sick or injured while serving in the military – and can link this condition to your illness or injury (i.e., in-service disability claim); or
  • Had an illness or injury before you joined the military – and serving made it worse; or
  • Have a disability related to your active-duty service that did not appear until after you ended your service

Furthermore, veterans who received an other than honorable, bad conduct, or dishonorable discharge may not be eligible for VA disability benefits.  For more information, read “Military Discharge Status and What it Means for Your Entitlement to VA Benefits.”

VA Disability Benefits Rates

The amount of benefits paid ranges, depending on how disabled you are.  VA makes a determination about the severity of your disability based on the evidence you submit as part of your claim, or VA obtains from your military records.  VA rates disabilities from 0 to 100 percent, in 10 percent increments (e.g., 10%, 20%, 30%, etc.).  If VA finds that a veteran has multiple disabilities, it uses its Combined Ratings Table to calculate a combined disability rating.  Importantly, disability ratings are not additive, meaning that if a veteran has one disability rated 60 percent and a second disability rated 20 percent, the combined disability rating is not 80 percent.  This is because subsequent disability ratings are applied to an already disabled veteran, so the 20 percent disability is applied to a veteran who is already 60 percent disabled.  To calculate your estimated combined disability rating, use our Veterans Disability Calculator.

It is also important to note that veterans with a combined disability rating of 30 percent or higher may be eligible for additional compensation for qualifying dependents, such as:

  • A spouse
  • Children under the age of 18
  • Children between the ages of 18 and 23 who are still in school
  • Dependent children who were permanently disabled before the age of 18
  • Dependent parents

Can Veterans Receive 100% Disability Compensation Without a 100% Combined Rating?

If veterans do not have a 100 percent combined disability evaluation, there is another path to receiving the highest amount of benefits paid.  Total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) is a benefit offered by VA that allows veterans who are unable to secure and maintain substantially gainful employment due to service-connected conditions to receive disability compensation equal to a 100 percent rating, even if their combined disability rating does not reach 100 percent.  Here, “substantially gainful” refers to jobs that pay above the federal poverty threshold.  Under certain circumstances, veterans may qualify for TDIU even if they are working a job that pays above this income threshold.

Is a 60 Percent Disabled Veteran Eligible for TDIU Benefits?

Any veteran who is receiving VA disability benefits and unable to secure and maintain substantially gainful employment due to service-connected conditions can qualify for TDIU.  In making a decision about entitlement to TDIU, VA follows the regulations under 38 CFR § 4.16, which encompasses subsections (a) and (b).  Each subsection sets forth a different path by which veterans may meet the requirements for TDIU.  In order to qualify for TDIU under 38 CFR § 4.16(a), a veteran must have:

  • One service-connected condition rated at 60 percent or more; or
  • Two or more service-connected conditions, one of which is rated at least 40 percent disabling, with a combined disability rating of at least 70 percent

Those who do not meet the schedular requirements under 38 CFR § 4.16(a) may still be considered for TDIU under § 4.16(b).  Under this subsection, VA must refer your entitlement to TDIU to the Director of Compensation Service for extraschedular consideration.

How Can Veterans Reach the 60 Percent Rating for TDIU Benefits?

Importantly, if a veteran has multiple service-connected conditions, there are five ways they can be combined to reach the qualifying 60 percent disability rating.  Under 38 CFR § 4.16(a), the following circumstances can be combined and considered as one disability for the purposes of TDIU:

  1. If you have a disability of one or both of your upper extremities, or one or both of your lower extremities, those disabilities can be combined into one rating in order to reach the aforementioned 60 percent rating to qualify for TDIU.
  2. If your disabilities stem from “common etiology or a single accident.” For example, multiple disabilities incurred from a single explosion during service can be combined into one rating.
  3. Disabilities that affect a single body system (e.g., multiple service-connected conditions impacting the respiratory system) can be combined into one rating.
  4. If you incurred a number of injuries in action, those injuries can be combined into a single rating.
  5. Former prisoners of war who incurred multiple disabilities during their time in captivity may combine those disabilities into one rating.

How Does VA Disability Back Pay Work?