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Veterans Law

VA Individual Unemployability Form 21-8940 Explained

Lisa Ioannilli

May 25, 2019

Updated: November 20, 2023

VA Form 21-8940

What Is Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU)?

Total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) is a VA disability benefit that allows for veterans to be compensated at the 100 percent disability rate, even if their combined rating does not equal 100 percent.  The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) awards TDIU to veterans who are unable to secure or follow substantially gainful employment due to their service-connected conditions.

VA outlines TDIU regulations under 38 CFR § 4.16, which includes subsections (a) and (b).  To qualify for TDIU under 38 CFR § 4.16(a), or schedular TDIU, 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 rating of at least 70 percent.

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

How to Apply for TDIU: VA Form 21-8940

When applying for TDIU, veterans must complete VA Form 21-8940, or Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability.  The purpose of this form is to provide VA with additional information about the veteran, such as their level of education and employment history, to supplement the request for TDIU.

To understand how to properly fill out VA Form 21-8940, veterans can review the following VA Form 21-8940 instructions.  The form is broken down into five sections:

Section I: Veteran Identification Information

This section includes boxes 1-7 in which veterans must fill out personal, identifying information, including the following:

  1. Name
  2. Social security number
  3. VA file number
  4. Date of birth
  5. Mailing address
  6. Email address (if applicable)
  7. Telephone number

It is important to make sure the contact information you are providing matches the information in VA’s system.

Section II: Disability and Medical Treatment

Section II (boxes 8-13) pertains to a veteran’s service-connected conditions and the dates/locations of medical treatment received for those conditions.  Specifically, veterans are required to provide the following information:

  1. A list of service-connected conditions that prevent you from securing or following any substantially gainful employment.
    • Importantly, veterans do not need to list every single one of their service-connected conditions.  Instead, it is only necessary for veterans to list those service-connected conditions that have an impact on employment.
  2. Whether you have been under a doctor’s care and/or hospitalized within the past 12 months. This question only refers to the treatment that you are receiving for the service-connected condition(s) listed in the previous box.
  3. The dates of treatment by any doctors along with the names and addresses of those doctors.
  4. The name and address of your treating doctor(s).
  5. The name and address of the hospital.
  6. The dates of any hospitalizations.

Some veterans may find that there is not enough space to list all the service-connected conditions impacting their employability.  If this is the case, veterans may include an addendum with VA Form 21-8940.  However, they must note on the main form that there is additional information attached pertaining to a specific section.

Section III: Employment Statement

Section III (boxes 14-22) is the most in-depth portion of VA Individual Unemployability Form 21-8940.  In this section, VA requests that veterans provide a recap of their employment history.  Specifically, each box asks for the following:

  • Box 14: The date your service-connected condition affected full-time employment.
  • Box 15: The date you last worked full-time.
  • Box 16: The date you became too disabled to work.
  • Box 17A: The most amount of money you have earned in one year.
  • Box 17B: The year you earned that amount.
  • Box 17C: Your occupation during that year.
  • Box 18: A list of all employment including self-employment for the last five years you worked, including:
    • Name and address of the employer
    • Type of work
    • Hours worked per week
    • Dates of employment
    • Time lost from illness – referring to how many days of work you missed because of the service-connected condition(s) listed in previous sections (e.g., two days per week, three weeks per year, etc.)
    • Highest gross earnings per month – to obtain this number, veterans can divide their annual salary by 12.
  • Box 19: Whether your service-connected conditions prevent you from performing military duties if you are currently serving in the Reserves or National Guard.
  • Box 20A: Your total income for the last 12 months.
  • Box 20B: Current monthly income if presently employed.
  • Box 21A: If you left your last job because of your condition.
  • Box 21B: If you receive/expect to receive disability retirement benefits.
  • Box 21C: If you receive/expect to receive workers compensation benefits.
  • Box 22: If you have tried to obtain employment since you became too disabled to work and if so, (A) the location of the employer, (B) the type of work, and (C) the date applied.

Once again, TDIU is given to veterans who are unable to secure or follow substantially gainful employment due to their service-connected conditions.  Therefore, Section III is used to determine a veteran’s eligibility for this benefit based on their earnings.

Substantially gainful employment refers to earnings above the federal poverty threshold for a single person.  As such, it is important for VA to consider how much money a veteran is making if they are working, as they still might qualify for TDIU if it is under that threshold amount.  The information provided in this section helps with that determination.

Section IV: Schooling and Other Training

In Section IV (boxes 23-26), VA requests information about the veteran’s education and vocational training in order to consider how that affects their chances of being able to secure and follow substantially gainful employment.  Veterans are required to indicate the following:

  • Highest level of education completed with options ranging from grade school, high school, and college.
  • If you have had any other education and training before you were too disabled to work, or since you were too disabled to work.
    • If so, the type of education or training and the dates you began and completed it.

The end of this section also includes a box for veterans to include any additional remarks.  Again, veterans are allowed to attach an addendum page if there is not enough space.

In some cases, it may be helpful to submit statements to VA explaining your service-connected conditions, the impact they have on your daily functioning, and how they inhibit your ability to work.  These statements can come from you, as well as your friends, family, co-workers, or previous supervisors.  In addition to lay evidence, opinions from medical and vocational experts can be quite beneficial to TDIU claims.  Some veterans submit vocational expert reports that detail the impact of their service-connected conditions on their ability to secure or follow substantially gainful employment.

Section V: Authorization, Certification, and Signature

In this final section, veterans are required to sign VA Form 21-8940 to verify and confirm that the information provided is truthful and accurate.  Underneath this section, VA also includes information regarding where to send the form.

What Happens After Filing for TDIU?

Once a veteran submits VA Form 21-8940, VA will send a notice indicating they have received the TDIU application.  VA will then send out VA Form 21-4192, the Request for Employment Information in Connection with Claim for Disability Benefits, to each former employer listed on the TDIU Form 21-8940.  This form is used to get information such as when the veteran stopped working, why they stopped working, how much they worked prior to leaving, whether the veteran was experiencing issues at work, and so on.

If VA is unable to obtain this information, they will usually notify the veteran.  In this case, a letter to VA explaining the circumstances behind the situation can be helpful or the veteran can contact their past employer directly.

When the claim is fully processed, VA will issue a decision either granting or denying TDIU benefits.

Was Your TDIU VA Claim Denied?

If your VA claim for TDIU benefits was denied, the experienced and accredited attorneys and agents at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD may be able to help you secure the benefits you deserve.  Contact us today to schedule a complimentary case review.


About the Author

Bio photo of Lisa Ioannilli

Lisa joined CCK in March 2012. Lisa is a Senior Attorney focusing on representing disabled veterans in claims pending before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

See more about Lisa