If you have PTSD, your symptoms may significantly affect your ability to work, maintain relationships, and function in everyday life. Some of the most debilitating symptoms of PTSD are:
If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, you may be dealing with service-connected PTSD. Make sure to visit your doctor and get your condition evaluated as soon as possible – treatments like therapy and medication can significantly improve your symptoms.
A Veteran’s ability to continue working while suffering from PTSD depends on the severity, frequency, and duration of the symptoms they experience. PTSD can affect people differently, and the symptoms of the disorder are sometimes more manageable for some sufferers than for others. If you are seeking VA disability benefits for PTSD, the disability rating that you receive from the VA will depend largely on how severe your symptoms are.
The VA sometimes grants very high disability ratings to Veterans with PTSD. Some Veterans with service-connected PTSD may even receive the highest possible disability rating – 100%. A 100% disability rating typically indicates that a Veteran’s disability is so debilitating that they can’t work or function normally in everyday life.
Put simply, Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) is a special disability benefits status in which a Veteran receives a 100% disability benefits rating, even if their disabilities wouldn’t normally add up to 100% under the typical rating schedule.
TDIU is intended to compensate Veterans who cannot acquire or maintain substantially gainful employment because of a combination of rated disabilities. Veterans can only acquire TDIU if they can’t maintain substantially gainful employment directly because of their service-connected disabilities.
Many Veterans with 100% disability ratings have qualified for TDIU. To qualify for TDIU for service-connected PTSD, Veterans must first meet the following requirements:
Some Veterans can be granted TDIU with a PTSD rating at 50 percent because they are service-connected for other conditions, leading to a combined rating that is 70 percent or higher. The benefit of having your TDIU based on one condition is that it puts you in a position for special monthly compensation (additional benefits) if you have other disabilities rated at 60 percent or more.
Furthermore, some Veterans may qualify for TDIU extra schedular consideration. In a nutshell, extra-schedular TDIU is granted for exceptional or unusual disabilities, such as disabilities that may require a Veteran to frequently receive or visit a facility for medical attention or that would otherwise make employment impractical.
For example, if a Veteran has a condition that does not usually result in a 100% disability rating, which nonetheless requires them to go to the hospital every week, such a condition would logically impact their employment prospects. Thus, they may qualify for TDIU if they apply for extra schedular consideration.
Not all unemployed Veterans can qualify for TDIU. In fact, Veterans generally cannot qualify for total and permanent disability based on individual unemployability if they are already gainfully employed. It doesn’t matter how your disabilities or injuries impact your life if you can hold down a job.
There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, however, such as self-employment. For instance, if you can maintain limited self-employed income by doing remote work, you may still qualify for TDIU and related benefits. These exceptions, however, can be difficult to prove to the VA, especially without the assistance of knowledgeable attorneys. Generally, if you are employed, you do not qualify for TDIU.
That said, if you are currently working but feel like you may get fired or may be forced to quit because of your service-connected disabilities, don’t wait. It’s important to start gathering documents and evidence for your claim now. This evidence can include:
If an unemployed Veteran has an individual PTSD rating of 70%, it would be worthwhile for him or her to file for TDIU. A 70% rating indicates very severe symptoms of PTSD. These symptoms can include:
When symptoms such as these are sufficiently severe, a Veteran may not be able to work as a result. One indication to determine whether PTSD is severe enough to qualify for TDIU is if a Veteran has had several jobs in a short period of time because he or she walked off the job site, was fired by an employer, or could not handle social interactions.
Many Veterans who have PTSD may continue to look for work because they are afraid they will end up financially unstable if they do not. However, Veterans with severe PTSD often need to undergo extensive treatment and recovery before they can work again. If you are a Veteran with PTSD, it is not your fault, nor is it something you can control – therefore, you should not have to continuously search for work that will be anxiety-provoking and overwhelming for you.
Instead of searching for jobs that you may not be able to maintain, you can apply to receive disability benefits from the VA to get the compensation and support that you need and deserve. VA benefits are tax-free, and they can help you maintain financial security and support your loved ones when your disability has left you unable to work. If you qualify for TDIU, your monthly benefits will be even higher.
Some Veterans may be denied TDIU benefits even if they are unable to work.
For example, they may not make enough of a distinction between being out of work or being unable to work. The VA does not consider being unable to work in a preferred occupation as the same thing as being unable to secure “substantially gainful employment.” For instance, if you worked as a construction worker before getting a service-connected disability, the VA may still consider you capable of working a desk job.
The VA should logically consider a Veteran’s skill set when evaluating a claim for TDIU, but they oftentimes focus on physical abilities to the exclusion of everything else. For example, it’s not always practical for a lifetime construction worker to suddenly switch industries completely and become a programmer.
You can combat VA assumptions and negative TDIU benefits decisions by getting statements from doctors, providing your own statement about your difficulty finding employment, and more.
Fortunately, there isn’t any wrong way to substantiate your claim for TDIU. The key thing to remember is that your evidence must show unemployability in some way.
The most common reason Veterans who have PTSD cannot handle employment is because they do not feel safe outside their homes. Most jobs, especially unskilled labor positions, require workers to leave their homes for at least eight hours a day, five days a week. For Veterans who feel threatened outside of the comfort of their homes, a normal work schedule may be impossible to maintain. Some employers may be sympathetic to a Veteran’s situation, but others will not tolerate someone who cannot reliably show up to work every day.
Because a typical work environment is not set up to accommodate Veterans with PTSD, finding employment when suffering from this disability can be extremely difficult. To make sure that you have the resources that you need to take care of yourself and your family, see if you can qualify for disability benefits from the VA.
To qualify for disability benefits from the VA, you will first need to establish and verify that your PTSD is service-connected. This means that you developed the disorder due to a traumatic experience that you had when you were serving in the military. With the help of your doctor, your military medical records, and, if necessary, an attorney, you can establish a service connection.
If your application for disability benefits or TDIU related to PTSD is denied, don’t give up on getting the compensation you deserve. A skilled attorney can help you make an appeal to the VA to potentially change their final decision regarding your claim.
An attorney can help you make a case to the VA that they have judged your claim inaccurately. In many cases, the VA will deny a Veteran’s claim based on perceived lack of medical evidence or because they could not verify a service connection. Berry Law’s attorneys have years of experience navigating the VA appeals process, and we can help you get past the obstacles that stand between you and the benefits that you deserve.
If you have PTSD and have difficulty keeping a job, you may qualify for TDIU. If the VA did not recognize the severity of your symptoms when you initially filed for benefits, Berry Law might be able to help. Our team of Veterans disability attorneys fight for Veterans who don’t receive the benefits they need and deserve.
Our firm was founded by John Stevens Berry Sr., a three-tour Vietnam Veteran who, upon his return to the United States, focused on helping soldiers coming home from war. Today, many of our attorneys and staff are Veterans themselves.
If you believe your PTSD qualifies you for TDIU, contact us today. Your consultation is free.
Our monthly newsletter features about important and up-to-date veterans' law news, keeping you informed about the changes that matter.