VA Disability Benefits for Individual Unemployability

VA Disability Benefits for Individual Unemployability


For veterans who have been injured in connection with their military service, obtaining Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability benefits are often very important. The VA limits the amount of compensation a veteran can receive in relation to the percentage the veteran is considered disabled. However, under special circumstances known as individual unemployability, a veteran may be eligible for a higher benefit amount than he or she is rated for.

Rating System

The amount of benefit that is paid depends on how disabled the VA considers the veteran. In order to make the determination of the severity of the disability, the VA uses evidence of the disability submitted by the veteran, as well as information the VA obtains from military records. The veteran is assigned a disability rating from between 0% and 100%, in 10% increments. For veterans with multiple disabilities, the VA assigns the rating based on a special combined ratings table. Importantly, each disability rating is not simply added together.

Individual Unemployability

Individual unemployability (also known as Total Disability or TDIU) is part of the VA disability compensation program and pays certain veterans compensation at the 100% rate, even though the individual is not rated at the 100% level. In order to be eligible, the veteran must be unable to maintain substantially gainful employment as a result of service-connected disabilities. Marginal employment, like an odd job, is not considered substantial gainful employment. A person is engaged in marginal employment when their earned annual income does not exceed the poverty threshold for one person as established by the Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census.

While “substantially gainful employment” is not defined, two examples listed on the VA website provide some guidance. One involves an individual forced into early retirement on the advice of her doctor due to her condition. The second example involves an individual who, for the past two years, has only had income from watching a neighbor’s dogs because his condition prevented him from maintaining gainful employment.

In addition to the inability to maintain substantially gainful employment, the veteran must have the following for individual unemployability:

  • A service-connected disability ratable at 60% or more; or
  • Two or more service-connected disabilities, with at least one ratable at 40% or more with a combined rating of 70% or more.

An individual may still be granted this benefit even though they do not meet the disability rating requirement if there are exceptional or unusual circumstances. These circumstances may arise if the service-connected disability or disabilities causes frequent hospitalization or significant interference with employment.

Veterans who believe they may qualify under individual unemployability can submit VA-Form 21-8940 to their local regional office or file online.

Helping our Veterans

If you have suffered a service-connected disability, it is possible that you can obtain more compensation than what the VA has rated you for. These increased benefits can significantly help you and your family. At the Klok Law Firm LLC, we have experience putting our legal expertise to work helping veterans obtain VA disability benefits. Contact us today with any questions you have.