Let’s start with the basics. Total Disability Individual Unemployability—with the acronym TDIU—is part of the VA’s disability compensation program. If a vet’s disabilities prevent them from being able to get and keep a job, TDIU allows them to have their disability rating raised to 100 percent even though the rating on their service-connected disabilities do not equal 100 percent. Unemployability is the VA’s way of acknowledging that some veterans with disability ratings below 100 are unable to work due to their impairments.

In the first step for qualifying for TDIU you must meet one of two key conditions. You must have at least one service-connected disability rated at least 60 percent.  Or, alternatively, you must have at least two or more disabilities with a combined rating of 70 percent or more and one them has to be rated at 40 percent or more.  Then you must show you are unable to maintain substantial gainful employment as a result of your disabilities.

It is important to know that TDIU benefits may be available to you even if you are working. If your income is at or below the poverty level or if you are in a job that is considered sheltered, the VA does not consider you engaged in substantial gainful employment and you are still eligible under TDIU.

In 2017 the federal poverty level for a single person is an annual income of 12 thousand 60 dollars. The VA considers jobs with salaries below the poverty level as marginal employment. 

Sheltered employment means that you are given special treatment due to your service-connected disabilities that would not normally be given to other employees. It could be a job in a family business, a workshop in a shelter or marginal work that has been customized to compensate for your disabilities. The VA does not consider these kinds of job to be substantial gainful employment.

If you were recently denied TDIU benefits call us at Cuddigan Law.  You only have one year to file a notice of disagreement against a VA rating decision. Our VA accredited attorneys are ready to fight for your rights and the benefits you have rightly earned.



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