The Veterans Administration’s compensation program pays Individual Unemployability(IU) to certain veterans at the 100% level even  though their VA ratings do not add up to 100% on the combined rating schedule. The reason is they are unable to maintain substantial gainful employment as a result of their service-connected disabilities.

To qualify under these circumstances there is a two step process: (1) you must have one service-connected disability at a 60% or more rating or two or more service-connected disabilities rated at 40% or more with a combined rating of 70% or more and (2) you must be unable to follow a substantial gainful occupation as a result of your service connected disabilities. A veteran who does not meet the percentages of disabilities above but is unable to work may still be granted TDIU benefits on an extra schedular basis by the VA central office.

An Individual Unemployability (IU) determination often hinges on the VA’s definition of substantial gainful employment. The VA defines it as “employment at which non-disabled individuals earn their livelihood with earnings comparable to the particular occupation in the community where the veteran resides.”

Age and non-service connected disabilities are not considered when making this determination. The VA must consider educational and occupational history as a part of the evaluation process. According to veteran's case law any claim filed for compensation is considered a claim for the highest rating. The VA will often require you to file a form 21-8940 to substantiate your claim. If you don't file the form after being asked to do so the VA can deny your claim. If you think that you are eligible for this benefit you should not wait until the VA sends you the form but you should notify the VA of your intent to file.

Obtaining benefits for IU is difficult and time consuming. For professional assistance from an accredited attorney with your claim for Individual Unemployability call us at (402) 933 5405 or email us at [email protected].

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