If the VA approves your disability claim, you are assigned a disability rating between 0 percent and 100 percent. This percentage designates your rate of disability. The VA can award benefits at the 100 percent disability rating if a veteran is completely unable to work. In order to receive full benefits or be considered 100 percent disabled, a veteran must be “unemployable” and, due to his disabilities, either can’t work or can’t stay employed to earn a salary above the poverty level. While these benefits exist, there are strict rules governing who can and cannot receive them.

Qualifying for Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU)

Benefits commonly known as Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) are awarded to veterans who have one service-connected disability that has been rated at 60 percent or higher, or multiple service-connected disabilities that total a 70 percent rating or more (with at least one disability rated at 40 percent or higher). Simply put, this program allows special consideration to veterans who might not be considered disabled by the usual rating scale, but are still unable to maintain employment. A veteran who does not meet these requirements but is unable to work because of his service-connected injuries may be eligible for TDIU on an extra-schedular basis. 

When Determining if you Qualify for TDIU or IU, the VA Will Examine:

  • Your service-connected injuries. Although you may have a number of injuries that prohibit you from earning a living, the VA will only consider a disability connected to your military service when determining TDIU. Before you file your TDIU claim, you must carefully consider which disabilities are connected to your service. The loss of two fingers years after being discharged from the military will likely not be considered, but severe arthritis may be linked to your service if you spent years doing heavy physical labor while deployed. You may wish to consult with a veterans’ disability attorney to help with your appeal.
  • Your total earnings. You do not have to be completely unemployed to qualify for TDIU, but you must be unable to perform “substantial gainful employment.” The VA considers any employment that provides you with regular wages that place you above the poverty level to be substantial. While the actual number varies year to year (and was officially $12,316 in 2014), an annual poverty-level wage is generally accepted to be less than $12,000.
  • Your work history. One of the benefits of a TDIU claim is that before making a determination, the VA will carefully examine the details of your case rather than hold you to a concrete set of standards. This is especially true when the VA considers your work history. The VA will look at your individual work history, skills, and education to determine how your disabilities affect your ability to work. If you have worked as a park ranger many years but are now unable to walk long distances, this could greatly affect your ability to do your daily work.

We Can Help You Complete Your VA Disability Appeal for the Best Chance of Success

At Cuddigan Law, our attorneys are proud to provide services to injured veterans and argue on your behalf. Our VA-accredited attorneys are qualified to advise you on your claim, review your claims file, prepare  your appeals, prepare arguments and deal with the VA on your behalf. We will also check on the status of your claim at regular intervals, keeping you informed about your case throughout the process.

Contact Cuddigan Law today at 402-933-5405 if you have a question about your disability claim, or download a free copy of our book, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims, to learn more.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska