A determination by Veterans Affairs (VA) that you are disabled after military service can help you get the financial assistance you need. But, it may not be a permanent designation, and the VA can later attempt to reduce your rating.
Fortunately, there are options for some veterans to be considered totally and permanently disabled and for that rating to be protected from future decreases.
Disability Law Group is here to answer your questions and make sure you get the maximum VA benefits available to you under the law. We strongly believe that disabled veterans deserve the full compensation to which they are entitled, and we are here to help fight for it. We can help you apply for VA disability benefits and appeal any unfair adverse decisions.
This page provides essential information about Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) and Permanent and Total Disability benefits for veterans seeking compensation due to service-connected disabilities. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.
What Is TDIU?
Many veterans have service-connected disabilities that don’t qualify for a 100% disability rating but are unable to maintain substantially gainful employment. These veterans may be able to obtain VA disability benefits that provide the same cash compensation as a totally disabled veteran by receiving a VA disability rating of Total Disability Individual Unemployability, or TDIU. This is a disability rating for veterans whose service-connected disability prevents them from working or maintaining employment because of their injuries or conditions stemming from their time in service. Although a TDIU VA rating is not the same as a 100% disability rating, benefits are paid at the same level.
There are two ways to obtain TDIU:
- Scheduler TDIU – To receive regular scheduler TDIU, you must have at least one service-connected disability rated at 60% or greater disability, or two or more service-connected disabilities, with at least one rated at 40% or greater and a combined rating of 70% or greater. Most approved TDIU claims are based on scheduler eligibility.
- Extra-scheduler TDIU – The VA has the discretion in some cases to award TDIU even when the disabled veteran does not meet the eligibility for TDIU under scheduler criteria. This can happen when the disability picture is so exceptional or unusual with related factors like marked interference with employment or frequent periods of hospitalization that make it impractical to apply the regular scheduler criteria.
You must also be able to show that you cannot maintain a steady job that supports you financially because of the service-connected disability (also known as substantially gainful employment). Veterans who have paying jobs may still be able to qualify for a TDIU rating. Marginal employment, such as odd jobs, does not count as substantially gainful employment. The income earned must be below the federal poverty threshold.
Additionally, you must not have been dishonorably discharged to qualify for TDIU.
How Do I Make A TDIU Claim?
To receive TDIU benefits, the veteran must apply for disability compensation and fill out two additional forms:
- Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability (Form 21-8940)
- Request for Employment Information in Connection with Claim for Disability Benefits (Form 21-4192)
You have to provide medical evidence to support your VA disability claim, such as:
- Doctor’s notes
- Medical test results
- Details on medical treatment you have received due to your service-related conditions
- Other documentation that shows your unemployability
Medical evidence is particularly crucial. A VA disability lawyer can help identify and gather evidence that can help support your disability benefits application. The VA will also review your work and educational background. This evidence is used to determine whether you are able to hold down any sort of gainful employment.
If you are applying for extra-scheduler TDIU, your case is forwarded from your local VA office to the director of the Compensation and Pension Service. You must be able to demonstrate to the regional office that your service-connected disability prevents you from working, and the Compensation and Pension Service must agree to receive this type of VA rating.
Is TDIU Permanent?
TDIU can be permanent, but this is not always the case. If the VA decides your TDIU benefits will be permanent, this will be indicated in your rating decision. It may be done in one of several ways:
- The “Permanent and Total” (P&T) box on your form is checked.
- The form may state, “No further exams are scheduled.”
- The letter may indicate you are eligible for Chapter 35 DEA or CHAMPVA benefits.
It is also possible for initially temporary TDIU benefits to become permanent TDIU benefits. This happens either if you are 70 years or older or you have received TDIU benefits for 20 years or more consecutively.
Can The VA Reduce Or Terminate My TDIU Benefits?
If you are currently receiving TDIU benefits, it’s important to know that the VA has the power to terminate or reduce your benefits. The VA can terminate your TDIU benefits if it determines that your service-connected condition has improved to the point that you are able to maintain substantially gainful employment. Your TDIU rating may also be reduced if you are maintaining substantially gainful employment for 12 consecutive months.
However, this rule does not apply to veterans who are working in what is known as a protected work environment. This designation usually applies to a situation where some special accommodation is made for the veteran.
What Is Permanent and Total Disability?
A different designation known as permanent and total disability applies to veterans whose disabilities are not expected to improve.
But it’s important to understand the definitions of “permanent” and “total,” which mean the following:
- Permanent – This means that based on the medical evidence, it is reasonably certain that the disability will continue for the rest of the veteran’s life. The veteran’s age may be taken into account, so younger veterans are less likely to be considered permanently disabled.
- Total – The VA uses a rating schedule to determine to what degree the disability interferes with the veteran’s ability to function. “Total” means that the rating is 100%, indicating the veteran is completely or totally disabled.
It is possible for a veteran to have a total (100%) disability that is not permanent or a permanent disability rated less than 100% (is not total). If the veteran has both a permanent and total disability rating, it cannot be reduced. Additionally, the veteran may be entitled to other benefits besides monthly compensation.
How Do I Obtain A Permanent and Total Disability Rating?
The first thing you must do to obtain a permanent and total disability rating is to prove that your condition is service-connected. You may need to request your official military record to verify this service connection since that may show the type of work you did and how you may have suffered various mental or physical disabilities related to your military service.
There is no VA benefits application for permanent and total disability. But if you believe that your total disability is unlikely to improve, and you have supporting evidence for this, you can write a letter to the VA requesting them to find you permanently and totally disabled.
You should include medical evidence in your letter to support the request, including but not limited to the following:
- Medical reports
- Doctors’ notes
- Medical treatment records.
When determining eligibility for VA benefits, the VA may determine at the time you apply for benefits that you are permanently and totally disabled. Be prepared to support this claim if they don’t designate you like this at first.
What Can Disability Law Group Do for Me?
We want veterans to get the compensation they need and deserve for the service they’ve provided our country. Our team has worked with countless veterans to explain how TDIU and permanent and total disability benefits can support them.
We have helped establish service-related disabilities and secured favorable VA ratings for our clients. We offer a free case review in which we can review your case and advise you of your legal options. If your application was wrongfully denied, we can appeal the decision.
Disability Law Group can help with your VA benefits application. Call us today to get started.