As many as one in three Veterans suffers from depression or a similar mental health disorder—a rate that is three times what is found in the general population. Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits provide cash compensation at a level that is the same as a 100% schedular rating for Veterans who are unable to work due to their service-connected disabilities. In some cases, Veterans with depression may qualify for TDIU.
How Eligibility for TDIU Is Determined
There are two general criteria used to determine eligibility for TDIU benefits:
- Earnings. There are no income criteria for general VA disability benefits, but TDIU requires you to be unable to hold substantially gainful employment. Earning a wage that exceeds the federal poverty level for a single person—about $12,000 per year—generally qualifies as substantially gainful employment unless you are working in a position that provides special accommodations for your depression and other service-connected disabilities. Veterans working in protected positions will have their applications reviewed independently to determine if they could exceed the earnings threshold for substantially gainful employment by working in a position without special accommodations.
- Disability rating. There are six possible VA disability ratings for depression: 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, and 100%. Your depression must be rated 70% if it is your only service-connected disability. If you have multiple service-connected disabilities, they must have a combined rating of 70% or higher with depression or another service-connected disability that is rated 40% or higher.
Evidence Needed for a TDIU Claim
Evidence that can be used to support a TDIU claim includes:
- Compensation & Pension (C&P) examination. When you are seeking TDIU, your Compensation C&P examination is used to provide a baseline assessment of the severity of your condition. In an exam for depression, you’ll typically be asked to talk to a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist about the symptoms you are experiencing. This might include problems with sleep, concentration, memory, or relating to others.
- Medical records. Records of your treatment for depression and opinions from private medical experts can outline the severity of your condition and how it affects your ability to hold paid employment.
- Work history. A work history that shows you’ve had poor performance reviews, changed jobs often, or been disciplined for excessive absences or tardiness can help support your claim that your depression is severe enough to limit your ability to maintain employment.
- Lay statements. Lay statements are signed and dated letters from family members, friends, or former co-workers who can provide observations about how your condition has affected your daily life and your ability to continue working. They can detail mood changes, cognitive issues, or problems in relationships with others.
Note that you don't need to prove that your depression was caused by any particular event to get TIDU benefits. With depression and other mental health conditions, it's sufficient to show that you were fine before entering the military, and you either began exhibiting signs of depression during active duty or developed depression based on the condition you obtained during your service.
How We Can Help You Access TDIU Benefits
Military culture often encourages Veterans to try to hide their mental health struggles and push through whatever difficulties they are experiencing. However, depression is a serious illness and not caused by any lack of willpower or a character defect. You need treatment and support to help you manage your condition. TDIU benefits can be a vital part of this by alleviating some of the financial stress you may be feeling.
If your application for TDIU benefits has been unfairly denied, you should contact an experienced Veterans disability attorney as soon as possible. Applications are often denied due to misinterpretations of the law or errors in preparing the supporting documentation, so it’s in your best interest to have an attorney who can advocate for your rights throughout the process. Learn how we were able to help a Veteran get TDIU for PTSD and depression.
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. You’ve served your country, now let us serve you.