For Veterans diagnosed with conditions that make it impossible to maintain substantially gainful employment, Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits provide a vital financial lifeline. If you are approved for TDIU, you can receive medical care and monetary compensation at the 100% schedular rating level.
Disability Rating Necessary for TDIU
To be eligible for TDIU, you must have one of the following:
- A single service-connected condition rated at 60% of more
- Two or more service-connected conditions, with one rating of at least 40% disabling and a combined rating of 70% or more
VA math can be tricky when determining eligibility for TDIU claims. If you have multiple disabilities, you don’t determine your combined rating by simply adding them together. The VA uses a descending efficiency scale that begins with your most significant disability and then calculates how your lesser conditions affect the non-disabled portion of your body. This is because a person can never be more than 100% disabled regardless of how many impairments they suffer from.
Including Both Physical and Mental Conditions
Veterans seeking disability benefits often fail to realize the negative effects of their service on their mental health. The VA grants TDIU benefits for both mental and physical conditions.
Some examples of mental health disorders potentially qualifying for TDIU benefits include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Psychotic disorder
- Schizoaffective disorder
Although mental health conditions combined with a physical impairment often make a Veteran eligible for TDIU benefits, it’s important to keep in mind that the mental health condition must have a service connection. The VA is not allowed to consider non-service-connected disabilities when evaluating TDIU applications.
It is possible to receive a secondary service connection for substance abuse, but Veterans who wish to use addiction issues to obtain TDIU will face an uphill battle. Working with an experienced attorney is essential in this type of claim.
Including Both Direct and Secondary Service-Connected Disabilities
You can qualify for TDIU based on both direct and secondary service-connected disabilities. Often, a Veteran with a direct service-connected disability has a number of conditions that are caused or aggravated by this disability and thus qualify for a secondary service connection.
Some common examples of direct and secondary service-connected disabilities eligible for TDIU include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Secondary hypertension, sleep apnea, migraines, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), TMJ disorder, or erectile dysfunction
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI). Seizures, migraines, depression, dementia, or visual problems
- Diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy, peripheral neuropathy, kidney disease, erectile dysfunction, or kidney disease
- Tinnitus. Hearing loss, TMJ disorder, migraines, depression, somatic symptom disorder, or hypertension
When determining if you have any conditions that qualify for a secondary service connection, remember that the VA prohibits pyramiding. This is the practice of evaluating the same disability under various diagnoses. For example, a Veteran can’t claim to have PTSD, depression, and anxiety as three separate conditions because depression and anxiety refer to the same emotional effects that are associated with PTSD.
Combining Disabilities Into One Rating
Sometimes, it is most advantageous for a Veteran to have multiple conditions considered as one disability. This is an option when any of the following apply:
- Your disabilities all stem from a “common etiology or a single accident” that occurred during your service, such as injuries from an explosion.
- All your disabilities affect a single body system, such as having multiple conditions related to the respiratory system.
- You have a disability of one or both of your upper extremities or one or both of your lower extremities.
- You are a former prisoner of war seeking disability benefits for conditions occurring during your time in captivity.
Get Help Accessing the Benefits You Deserve
Accessing your VA disability benefits can be a lengthy and confusing process—especially when TDIU benefits appear to have been unfairly denied. Working with an experienced attorney is the best way to protect your rights throughout the appeals process. Call the office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, or fill out the contact form on this page to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.