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TDIU for PTSD: Can You Get Total Disability?

TDIU for PTSD: Can You Get Total Disability?

Time in the military can cause a great deal of stress and mental health problems for Veterans. Once they are discharged from service, many Veterans have a difficult time settling back into the normal routine of their lives at home.

Unfortunately, many Veterans also develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of traumatic experiences during their time in the service. Veterans who suffer from PTSD should seek to get benefits from the VA for their service-connected disability.

But can Veterans receive Total Disability Individual Unemployability, or TDIU, for their PTSD? Below, we’ll walk you through how this might be possible and discuss everything else you’ll need to know about filing a VA disability claim for your PTSD.

What Is PTSD, and What Are Its Symptoms?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that is caused by a traumatic event. Although it is a psychiatric disorder, it can also have physical effects on many Veterans. It may start within one month of a traumatic incident, or it may not show up until years later.

PTSD can be a very serious health condition, especially if it is not treated properly. In some cases, Veterans with PTSD end up homeless or harming themselves.

Categories of PTSD

Medical professionals usually divide the numerous symptoms into four main PTSD categories.

  1. Reliving
  2. Avoiding
  3. Increased arousal
  4. Negative cognitions and mood

Reliving

These symptoms can include intrusive thoughts of the traumatic event and a tendency to relive the event through flashbacks as if it were happening again. Veterans may also suffer from nightmares and emotional distress from triggers or reminders of the event.

Avoiding

The Veteran may try to avoid people, places, or things that remind them of the traumatic event. They may also try to avoid even talking about the event.

Increased Arousal

This group of symptoms is associated with the feeling of constantly having to be on guard against danger. It can cause Veterans to have excessive emotions as well as physical reactions such as rapid breathing and nausea.

Negative Cognitions and Mood

These symptoms lead Veterans to feel as if they are responsible for the traumatic event. They may feel depressed, ashamed, or guilty. They may also be estranged from others and have a difficult time maintaining relationships.

All four types of symptoms may or may not be present in someone, and symptoms will vary in severity from Veteran to Veteran. Some Veterans may not find their symptoms of PTSD to be as severe. Others may need immediate help and treatment to decrease the severity of their symptoms.

No matter what the severity may be, it is important for Veterans to recognize their symptoms so that they may seek help and treatment.

What Are the Treatments for PTSD?

Luckily, there are many different types of treatment for Veterans who have PTSD. A Veteran should seek guidance from a medical professional since forms of treatment vary depending on the severity of the symptoms and the Veteran’s individual circumstances.

For Veterans with approved PTSD claims, the VA provides numerous forms of PTSD treatment, including:

  • One-on-one psychotherapy, which may make use of methods like cognitive processing therapy
  • One-on-one family therapy
  • Group therapy for Veterans who have been through similar traumatic experiences
  • Medicine that is proven to work for PTSD
  • Outpatient care in VA medical centers
  • Special residential or inpatient care programs

What Causes PTSD?

There are many traumatic events that can occur during a Veteran’s time in the service that can trigger PTSD. They include the following:

  • Witnessing the death of a fellow service member
  • Being a victim of sexual assault or witnessing sexual assault
  • Engaging enemy fire
  • Experiencing natural disasters

Many Veterans think that if they have not experienced active combat, then they will not suffer from PTSD — or that their symptoms will not be severe.

Sadly, this is not true. PTSD is not limited to those who experience combat. Any traumatic event can cause PTSD in a Veteran.

Regardless of the circumstances, it’s essential that the Veteran reports traumatic events so that they have records and evidence — one of the most crucial aspects of a successful claim. If the Veteran does not provide the proper evidence that the VA is looking for in their claim, they may not receive a service connection.

What Is TDIU?

Total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) is a way for Veterans to receive total disability benefits even if they have a service-connected disability that is less than 100 percent. It provides compensation that is equal to a total disability rating.

Any Veteran who cannot maintain or obtain substantially gainful employment because of one or more service-connected disabilities can qualify for TDIU.

How To Qualify for TDIU

In order to qualify for TDIU, the Veteran will have to prove a couple of things in their claim.

  1. Maintain Work
  2. Prove Its Substantially Gainful Work

Maintain Work

The first is whether or not a Veteran can get or keep work. When the VA determines this, they will take into consideration not just the impairments of the disability but also the Veteran’s education, training, and work history.

The VA will not take the Veteran’s age into consideration. That means that even if a Veteran is of retirement age, they can still get TDIU if their disability keeps them from substantially gainful employment.

Prove Its Substantially Gainful Work

If the Veteran does have a job, they will have to show that it does not qualify as substantially gainful employment or is in a protected environment. The VA considers work “substantially gainful” if it allows the disabled Veteran to earn approximately the same as a non-disabled person in their respective industry and location.

If the VA sees that the Veteran’s income is less than the poverty threshold ($12,880 for a single-family in 2021), they will not consider it gainful employment. 

If the Veteran earns more than the poverty threshold, the VA may or may not consider it substantially gainful employment. This will be up to the discretion of the reviewer.

Can You Get TDIU for PTSD?

Yes. There are many instances where PTSD keeps a Veteran from being able to obtain or maintain a job. In these cases, a Veteran may be on track to receiving TDIU.

However, if a Veteran has PTSD and wants to qualify for TDIU, then they will have to prove one of the two requirements outlined above for maintaining substantially gainful employment.

They will also have to have either a service-connected disability with a 60% rating or higher or multiple disabilities with a combined rating of 70%, including one of at least 40%.

Once all of these things are in place in a Veteran’s claim, then they can move forward with receiving TDIU.

Appealing a VA Decision

Sadly, there are many cases where Veterans will have to appeal a VA decision. A Veteran can appeal for VA ratings that are too low (making the benefits less than what they should be) or for outright denials of their claims. 

Either way, Veterans must make their appeal as quickly as possible. They only have one year from the time of the VA’s decision to appeal, or else they will have to start the whole claims process all over again. A PTSD lawyer can help with this appeal.

There are three ways that a Veteran can appeal a VA decision:

  1. Request a higher-level review of the same evidence that you gave in your initial claim, but with a more experienced VA reviewer.
  2. File a supplemental claim.
  3. Appeal directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

The appeals process can be much more challenging than the initial claims process, and it can be difficult to know which of these three paths to choose. Veterans should not go it alone.

Instead, look for experienced Veterans attorneys like the ones at Berry Law. We’re familiar with what the VA is looking for, and we know how to guide Veterans to receive the maximum benefits they deserve.

Conclusion

Veterans with PTSD may be eligible for TDIU. They will have to prove that they cannot maintain or obtain substantially gainful employment and have at least a 60% disability rating for their PTSD.

With an experienced attorney like Berry Law representing your VA claim, you can trust you’ll get the benefits that you deserve. For more information regarding VA benefits and disability ratings, visit the Berry Law website.

Sources:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — Symptoms and Causes | Mayo Clinic

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment | WebMD

PTSD Treatment | Veterans Affairs

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law Firm 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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