Many veterans who return from military duty have a service-connected condition, illness, or disability that may interfere with some aspect of their lives. Some veterans may:

  • Experience post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Have exposure to Agent Orange
  • Have orthopedic injuries or nerve damage
  • Suffer conditions related to exposure to environmental hazards

Additionally, these conditions make it impossible for them to function in society or sustain gainful employment.

unemployed_manIf a veteran can prove he’s unable to work any job due to a service-connected condition, he  may be eligible for a 100 percent disability rating known as Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU).

However, because these types of claims are often initially denied by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), it’s helpful to hire an experienced VA disability attorney to assist you with your application. 

Types of Service-Connected Conditions

The goal of military disability is to ensure that all veterans are compensated for conditions they suffered because of military service—whether they were on active duty, in training, and even off duty. These include:

  • A condition or illness caused during military service
  • A condition or illness aggravated by military service
  • A condition or illness considered “secondary” in nature but was caused by the service-connected condition
  • A condition or illness caused by exposure to certain hazards

Evidence Needed for TDIU

To show you’re eligible for TDIU and to receive a 100 percent disability rating, there's certain evidence you need to provide to the VA. Once you’ve filled out the unemployability form 21 8940 (your claim won’t be approved without it), you need to gather important evidence for your claim.

Here's a brief guide of the evidence necessary to receive this rating:

  • Obtain written statements from friends and family about what they’ve witnessed and observed as it relates to your condition. These statements should be clear and concise and not be technical in nature.

    For example, your spouse might write: “My husband will walk to the mailbox each day, which is approximately 200 feet from the house. Once he gets to the mailbox, he has to stop and rest for two minutes before he can return. Once back in the house, he has to lie down and rest for nearly an hour. He was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, and he can’t walk very far or sit for long periods of time without being in extreme pain.”
  • Obtain statements from colleagues or former employees who can explain how your condition prevented you from doing your job.
  • Organize this evidence and take it to your physician. If he agrees your service-connected condition makes it impossible for you to work, ask for a written statement for your application. It’s important that he include two mentions in this statement:
  • That he’s reviewed the evidence that’s been written by friends, family, colleagues, and employers.
  • That “it is as likely as not” that your service-connected condition makes it impossible for you to work, and then state why.

The why statement is especially important, but it's often what many doctors fail to provide in order to support the evidence you need for an approved claim. Your physician must link the evidence given to your inability to work.

An opinion that could reinforce your situation might say: “After reviewing the statements made on behalf of this veteran, as well as his medical records, I believe it is as likely as not that his spinal stenosis keeps him from working due to extreme pain, his inability to walk short distances, and his need to lie down for long periods due to the severity of the pain. He would not be able to perform normal work duties or last a full day.”  

Remember that a professional opinion by your physician or a vocational expert is the best evidence for obtaining TDIU benefits.

Call Cuddigan Law

Initial TDIU claims aren’t often approved, and most require an appeal. The attorneys at Cuddigan Law understand this and can walk you through the appeals process if your claim has been denied.

If you need help with your application or appeal for TDIU benefits, contact Cuddigan Law. Our expert team will examine your specific case and develop the best strategy for obtaining the compensation you deserve.


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