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Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU)

How to receive VA compensation at the 100% level even though your combined rating is less than 100%

Individual Unemployability (IU), also known as Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU), is a VA disability benefit. The VA pays TDIU to veterans whose combined rating is less than 100%, but whose service-connected disabilities affect their ability to work.  To qualify for TDIU, a veteran’s service-connected disability(ies) must prevent from maintaining substantially gainful employment.

Am I eligible for TDIU?

The general rule is that if a veteran has a single disability it must be rated at 60% or more to qualify.  If there are two or more disabilities, at least one must be rated at 40% and the combined rating must be at least 70%.  To obtain TDIU benefits you must show that you are unable to maintain substantially gainful employment as a result of your service-connected disability(ies).

One thing the VA does not explain very well is that even if a veteran has a service-connected disability rated at 0%, he or she is still able to receive TDIU as long as that disability precludes substantially gainful employment. For certain disabilities where there is a single rating such as for a back condition rated at 40% or headaches rated at 50%, the Veteran is still eligible to receive TDIU if it prevents him or her from maintaining substantially gainful employment.

I’m currently working.  Am I still eligible for TDIU?

If you are working but earn below the federal poverty threshold, then VA considers that to be “marginal” employment.  This means you would still be eligible.  If you work in a protected work environment such as a family business or at a job that allows you certain accommodations, and you have earnings in excess of the federal poverty level, then VA does not consider that substantially gainful employment and you would still be eligible for TDIU.

How do I apply for TDIU?

The first thing you need to do is complete the VA Form 21-8940. Click here for the form.  It is also helpful to obtain a medical report from your doctor stating that your service-connected disability or disabilities prevent you from maintaining substantially gainful employment.