Total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) is a disability benefit that allows for veterans to be compensated at VA’s 100 percent disability rate, even if their combined schedular rating does not equal 100 percent. TDIU is awarded in circumstances in which veterans 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). Each subsection describes a way 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% or more; OR
- Two or more service-connected conditions, one of which is rated at least 40% disabling, with a combined rating of at least 70%
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. To apply for TDIU, VA requires that veterans complete VA Form 21-8940, Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability.
VA Form 21-8940, 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 his or her level of education and employment history, to supplement the request for TDIU. VA Form 21-8940 is broken down into the following five sections:
Section I – Veteran Identifying Information
This section includes boxes 1-7 in which veterans must fill out personal, identifying information, including the following:
- Social security number
- VA file number
- Date of birth
- Mailing address
- Email address (if applicable)
- 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 contains boxes 8-13 related to the 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- The dates of treatment by any doctors along with the names and addresses of those doctors
- The dates of any hospitalizations along with the name and address of the hospital.
Some veterans may find that there is not enough space to list all of 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
In this section, veterans must fill out boxes 14-22, comprising the most in-depth portion of VA Form 21-8940. The information requested involves a recap of veterans’ 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)
- Whether your service-connected conditions prevent you from performing military duties if you are currently serving in the Reserves or National Guard
- Your total income for the last 12 months
- Current monthly income if presently employed
- If you left your last job because of your condition
- If you receive/expect to receive disability retirement benefits
- If you receive/expect to receive workers compensation benefits
- If you have tried to obtain employment since you became too disabled to work and if so, the location of the employer, the type of work, and 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, this section is used to determine veterans’ 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 this section (boxes 23-26), VA wants to know about your education and vocational training in order to consider how that affects your 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, to high school, to college
- If you have had any other education and training before 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 (either by mail or by fax).