When Your Disabilities Affect Your Ability to Work

When Your Disabilities Affect Your Ability to Work

If you are a Veteran with disabilities related to your time in service that make it difficult for you to keep a job, you may qualify for unemployment benefits from the VA, otherwise known as Total Disability due to Individual Unemployability (TDIU or IU for short).

This means the VA finds that you are entitled to 100 percent compensation even if the VA has rated your service-connected disabilities at less than 100 percent.

Here’s an overview of this VA benefit, the complex process for granting TDIU, and how you may qualify.

What Is Total Disability due to Individual Unemployability?

Total Disability Due to Individual Unemployability (TDIU) is a special consideration provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to address unique challenges faced by Veterans whose service-connected disabilities hinder their ability to secure and maintain gainful employment.

Unlike a traditional disability rating, which the VA bases on the severity of individual disabilities, TDIU takes a holistic approach. TDIU considers the cumulative impact of multiple service-connected conditions on a Veteran’s employability.

The VA established TDIU to support Veterans facing significant barriers in the job market due to their service-related disabilities. It aims to ensure these individuals receive the compensation and assistance they need for financial stability and improved quality of life.

TDIU plays a pivotal role in supporting Veterans who, due to their service-related disabilities, cannot pursue or maintain meaningful employment. This benefit recognizes the sacrifices made by Veterans and aims to address the economic impact of their disabilities.

Who Qualifies for TDIU?

One common misconception surrounding TDIU is that Veterans must have a 100 percent disability rating to qualify. In reality, TDIU does not depend on a specific disability rating.

While a 100 percent disability rating may automatically qualify a Veteran for TDIU, Veterans with lower disability ratings can still qualify if their service-connected conditions collectively impair their ability to maintain substantially gainful employment.

To qualify for TDIU, Veterans must meet specific eligibility criteria set forth by the VA.

The key components include:

Inability to Maintain Substantially Gainful Employment

Veterans must demonstrate that their service-connected disabilities render them unable to secure or maintain substantially gainful employment. The VA defines substantially gainful employment as “employment at which non-disabled individuals earn their livelihood with earnings comparable to the particular occupation in the community where the Veteran resides. It suggests a living wage.” This impairment in earning capacity is a central criterion for TDIU eligibility.

Presence of Service-Connected Disabilities: 

Veterans must have one or more service-connected disabilities, meaning physical or mental health-related conditions or injuries incurred or aggravated during military service.

Specifically, a Veteran must have:

  • At least one disability rated at 60 percent or more


  • Multiple disabilities, of which one is rated 40 percent or more and, when combined with other disabilities, earn a combined rating of 70 percent or more

If you don’t qualify for TDIU in either of these ways, you may qualify for extra-schedular consideration. This means that the VA will consider several factors to determine whether your case is so exceptional or unusual that the regular rating method used by the VA is inadequate.

Some of these factors the VA considers include your work history, education, periods of hospitalization, and service-connected disabilities.

How Do I Get VA TDIU Benefits?

To obtain TDIU benefits, you’ll need to get an Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability form, known as VA Form 21-8940.

Your application should also include supporting documents, such as:

  • Medical evidence: The VA will evaluate your current physical and mental condition. So, you’ll need to gather medical records such as VA medical exams and treatments and medical records from your private doctor.
  • Supporting statements: You’ll also want to provide statements from family members, friends, or people you served with regarding your disability, how and when it happened, and how it got worse.
  • Employment information: You’ll also need to provide a work history covering the five years before your condition made you too disabled to maintain substantially gainful employment. Even if you haven’t worked in a while, you must still provide a history of your last five work years. This includes any sheltered employment, which is work where your employer knew of your disabilities and made accommodations so that you could continue working.
  • Employer forms: You’ll also need your most recent employer to fill out a Request for Employment Information in Connection with Claim for Disability Benefits form VA Form 21-4192.
  • Discharge papers or other separation documents: Officially known as DD Form 214, the Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty provides the VA with proof of your military service.

A VA disability lawyer can complete your application correctly and put all your documentation in order. If the VA assigns you TDIU status, you must complete a VA employment questionnaire, VA Form 21-4140, each year until you turn 69. Since TDIU is based on your inability to maintain gainful employment due to your service-related disabilities, the VA requires you to submit this form to verify that you are still unemployed.

A VA Disability Lawyer Can Help You With TDIU

After honorably serving your country in the military, you should not need to scramble just to get by due to a service-connected disability.

Even if the VA hasn’t granted you a 100 percent disability rating, you may still get TDIU benefits.

The VA disability lawyers at Barry Law will review your existing claims file and help you get the necessary documentation to demonstrate eligibility. Let Berry Law help you file for the benefits that you lawfully deserve.

For your free consultation, please call (888) 883-2483 or contact us online.

John S. Berry, , Lawyer for VA Disability
John S. Berry, , VA Disability Attorney
Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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