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Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU)

Did you know that if you are a military service veteran who does not have a 100% combined disability rating, you can still be eligible to receive 100% disability compensation for your active duty service-related conditions? If your service-connected disability is keeping you from being able to maintain employment, then you might qualify for Total Disability Individual Unemployability benefits or TDIU.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) makes TDIU VA benefits available for disabled veterans whose service-related disabilities make it difficult or impossible for them to find traditional employment. There are multiple pathways a veteran can use to qualify for TDIU VA disability compensation, and the expert VA disability lawyers at Stone Rose Law know them all.

If you’d like to find out if you qualify for TDIU, call Stone Rose Law for a free consultation at (480) 498-8998, or reach out to us online.

How Do You Qualify for TDIU?

Basic eligibility for TDIU requires two basic criteria:

  1. You must have a service connection to current disabilities, that meets one of the threshold disability rating requirements the VA has established (more on that below); and
  2. Your service-connected condition must prevent you from holding down substantially gainful occupation.

There are three pathways through which you can qualify for TDIU benefits. Two of them are fairly common, while the third applies in fewer cases. In all three options, the main requirement is that your disability or combination of disabilities means that you cannot obtain or keep substantially gainful employment, so we will consider this qualification first.

TDIU eligibility options

What is Substantially Gainful Employment?

The “individual unemployability” part of TDIU means that you cannot keep a steady job that provides substantially gainful employment. That term is generally accepted to mean that your employment income is more than the federally defined poverty level.

  • In 2024 the federal poverty level for an individual is $15,060 in annual income.
  • For the same year, the federal poverty level for a married couple is $20,440.
  • The federal poverty level figures for the states of Alaska and Hawaii are a little more than the amounts above.

The VA will consider your individual circumstances when it evaluates whether you can maintain substantially gainful employment. It will include in its evaluation your employment history, your work skills, and your education when deciding if you can find suitable employment that will keep you above the poverty line.

The VA does not consider working odd jobs, or marginal employment, to be maintaining substantially gainful employment for substantial gainful employment purposes. Also, unlike with applications for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, the VA does not consider how old you are when it evaluates your eligibility for TDIU benefits.

If you are working in what the VA considers to be a “protected position,” like for a family business that employs you even though without its familial considerations you could not hold down a similar job elsewhere, then the VA will consider this to be similar to marginal employment even if your protected position pays you above the federal poverty level.

TDIU Eligibility Option One: One Disability Rated at 60 Percent or More

The first way to qualify for TDIU total disability benefits is fairly straightforward––if you have a service-connected disability that has been rated at 60 percent or higher, on the VA rating schedule, then you can qualify for TDIU if your disability renders you unable to maintain substantially gainful employment.

TDIU Eligibility Option Two: Combined Disability Rating of 70 Percent

The second way to qualify for TDIU benefits is similar to the first one, but instead of only one disability it uses a combined disability formula. 

The calculation works like this: if you have a combined disability rating of 70 percent or more from multiple service-connected conditions, and one of those disabilities is rated at least 40 percent, then you may qualify for a TDIU rating if you’re unable to obtain and keep substantially gainful employment.

In some situations, when calculating multiple service-connected disability ratings for TDIU benefits the VA allows for additional disability combinations to be treated as a single disability:

  • If you have a combination of disabilities to your upper and lower limbs, including a bilateral factor disability rating for both arms or both legs, these are joined into one combined rating.
  • If you suffer from multiple service-connected disabilities to one system of your body, like your respiratory, digestive, or circulatory systems, these can be combined into one disability rating.
  • If one service-connected event or condition led you to suffer from more than one disability, these can be combined.
  • If you suffered multiple injuries in combat, or multiple disabilities that you developed while a prisoner of war, these are also eligible for a combined rating.

Speaking with an experienced VA disability benefits lawyer in a free initial consultation is a good way to understand whether and how your service-connected disabilities can combine to meet the TDIU disability rating threshold.

TDIU Eligibility Option Three: Special Case Considerations

The third way to qualify for TDIU is a bit more complicated than the others, and is not as common.

If you cannot qualify under either of the options above, but still cannot keep substantially gainful employment, then in some circumstances your case can be referred for consideration to the Director of Compensation Service. 

The VA regional office to which you submitted your VA benefits application will automatically forward your TDIU benefits application in cases where your single or combined rating is close to the required eligibility threshold but not quite enough.

Although this can be a more difficult process, the VA Disability Lawyers at Stone Rose Law are familiar with how it works and are here to walk you through it. Schedule a free consultation and see if you might qualify for TDIU benefits.

Filing for TDIU Benefits

You can file for TDIU benefits on top of your overall VA disability claim for disability benefits by including this additional form with your benefits claim application:

  • VA Form 21-8940, Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability

How Much Does VA TDIU Pay in Benefits?

Although TDIU does not change your VA disability rating, it does change how much you receive in benefits to the same level as if you are totally disabled. Here are some examples of how much you can expect to receive in 2024 monthly TDIU benefits if the VA determines that you qualify:

  • Unmarried veteran, no children or dependent parents: $3,737.85
  • Unmarried veteran with one dependent parent and no children: $3,905.11
  • Unmarried veteran with two dependent parents and no children: $4,072.37
  • Unmarried veteran with one child and no dependent parents: $3,877.22
  • Unmarried veteran with one child and one dependent parent: $4,044.48
  • Unmarried veteran, one child, two dependent parents: $4,211.74
  • Veteran with spouse but no dependent parents or children: $3,946.25
  • Veteran with spouse, one dependent parent, no children: $4,113.51
  • Veteran with spouse, two dependent parents, no children: $4,280.77
  • Veteran with spouse, one child, no parents: $4,098.87
  • Veteran with spouse, one child, one dependent parent: $4,266.13
  • Veteran with spouse, one child, two dependent parents: $4,433.39

Additional special monthly compensation amounts are available for qualifying additional children or a spouse who is receiving Aid and Attendance benefits.

how much does VA TDIU pay in benefits?

Speak to an Arizona TDIU VA Disability Lawyer Today

It is very important to note that TDIU is not a permanent guaranteed VA disability benefit, and the VA can stop giving you TDIU benefits if certain things change, such as your income level or employment. The experienced VA Disability attorneys at Stone Rose Law know how to navigate this complicated field and maximize your benefits.

Veterans can apply to receive TDIU benefits online, in person, via mail, or through an accredited representative. Applying for TDIU doesn’t require you to submit new evidence in every case––the VA can consider your request based on your record. 

If you are a disabled veteran who is having trouble holding a steady job or is unable to work because of your service-connected disability, then contact one of our VA disability benefits attorneys today and see if you qualify to receive more money from the VA based on your existing injuries.