How to Apply for TDIU

Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) allows the VA to pay some disabled Veterans as if they were rated at 100% disability. For example, if a Veteran has been trained for the construction trade but can’t work because of a service-connected disability rated at 70%, he may be eligible for 100% disability compensation. In this article, we outline how to apply for TDIU.

Veterans may be eligible for this rating increase if they are either unemployed or unable to maintain substantially gainful employment as a result of their service-connected disability (or disabilities). This means the Veteran must be unable to maintain full-time employment that pays a wage greater than the poverty level. The VA does not consider odd jobs to be substantially gainful employment. The VA provides the following example of a Veteran who qualifies for Individual Unemployability:

“A Veteran has a service-connected heart condition. She has been able to work without difficulty until last year, when she began to experience chest pain with any exertion. Her physician recommended that she retire as soon as possible. She subsequently filed a claim for increased disability compensation. Evidence regarding the Veteran’s work history and education were reviewed by the Rating Team. As it confirmed the Veteran was ‘individually unemployable’ due to her service-connected disability, entitlement to compensation at the rate payable to a 100% disabled Veteran was granted.”

Qualifying for TDIU

In order to qualify for Individual Unemployability, you must have one of the following:

  1. A 60% or higher disability evaluation based on a single service-connected disability or
  2. A 70% combined disability evaluation based on multiple service-connected disabilities, with at least one disability rated at 40% or higher.

The VA will consider a Veteran’s eligibility for Individual Unemployability if there is evidence showing that he or she cannot work due to service-connected disabilities. In both of the above instances, the VA reviews all the evidence on record and decides if a Veteran’s disability is severe enough by law to grant Individual Unemployability.

How To Apply for TDIU

Technically, the first step is obtaining a TDIU Form from the VA, but the process really starts with the initial claim filed. If there is evidence found within that claim that you cannot work based on a specific disability, the VA should recognize it and address it at that point. When they do, they usually send you Form 21-8940.

But you don’t need to rely on the VA. You can submit Form 21-8940 on your own. Here’s a link to the form on the VA website.

It’s also important to note that the date you should be receiving TDIU is not necessarily based on the date you filled out 21-8940 but rather on the date the VA first received evidence that you could not work based on your service-connected disability.

Filling Out Form 21-8940

Once you have acquired Form 21-8940, you’ll need to fill it out step-by-step. To do that, you’ll need to input certain key information, including:

  • A comprehensive list of all the service-connected disabilities that prevent you from working or maintaining “substantially gainful employment” 
  • The dates of any treatments you receive or received for those disabilities
  • The names and addresses of any treating physicians, including psychiatrists
  • Related records for any hospitalizations
  • The date at which you last worked full-time, as well as the date at which point you became too disabled to work. Remember, TDIU is based only on your service-connected disabilities, not disabilities you may have otherwise
  • The names and addresses of all employers for the last five years you worked, including self-employment. You need to know the type of work you performed, the hours you worked per week, the dates of your employment arrangements, the time you lost from illness or disabilities, and your highest gross earnings per month
  • The names and addresses of any employers where you attempted to gain work since becoming too disabled for work. The VA may contact these employers to verify that you attempted to gain employment but were unable to do so
  • Details and documentation regarding schooling or training you may have received

Filling out this form in its entirety can be time-consuming and difficult. Be sure to set aside several hours to do it. Naturally, acquiring all this information can be very difficult to obtain, especially if you have been out of work for some time or if you have rotated through many different employers and can’t remember all of the information.

Getting Key Information

If you can’t remember some information, like the details of a place of employment, provide your best guess. It’s important to show the VA that you are doing everything in your power to play by the rules and fill out forms according to their preferences. This will make a positive impression on the VA and maximize your likelihood of being awarded TDIU. 

However, there are ways to acquire missing information if you want to complete your Form 21-8940 as comprehensively as possible.

For example, much of your personal information, regarding your payments, your employability, and the time you took off work, can be requested from the Social Security Administration at no cost to you. However, keep in mind that it may take several weeks or months for you to acquire all this information if you request it from a government organization. So, it’s wise to request it sooner rather than later.

Furthermore, you can contact knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys, who can help scour your records and dive into the details of your employment history to make sure your TDIU claim is as airtight as possible.

If you can’t remember medical details, simply contact the hospital or medical center you attended and ask for all the records they can provide. Most medical facilities keep very detailed records; even if you don’t remember the name of your attending physician, for instance, they might and should be able to provide you with a physical or electronic copy of those records.

Veterans Serving Veterans

Are you receiving the Veterans’ disability compensation you are entitled to receive by law? If you need assistance appealing VA Rating Decisions for mental health conditions or physical disabilities that occurred in service, please contact the Berry Law today (888) 883-2483.

Click here to schedule a time to talk to a member of our team to determine if we can help you with your VA appeal.

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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