Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) doesn’t affect everyone in the same way. Some people find that medication and therapy can control their condition, while others continue to struggle to function despite their best efforts to seek appropriate treatment. Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits are reserved for Veterans with service-connected disabilities that prevent them from working. As such, only severe cases of PTSD will qualify.
Eligibility for TDIU
TDIU allows eligible Veterans to receive disability benefits at the same level as someone who has been assigned a 100% disability rating—even if their condition doesn’t qualify for a 100% schedular rating.
There are two general criteria Veterans must meet to receive TDIU benefits.
- Disability rating. To receive TDIU, your PTSD must be rated 60% or higher if it is your only service-connected disability. If you have two or more service-connected disabilities, they must have a combined rating of 70% or higher with one that is rated 40% or higher.
- Earnings. TDIU requires you to be unable to hold substantially gainful employment. This is defined as earning a wage that exceeds the federal poverty level for a single person—about $12,000 per year. However, if you are working in a protected position that provides special accommodations for your PTSD, your application will be reviewed independently to determine if you could exceed the earnings threshold for substantially gainful employment in a position without accommodations.
Please note that while age is considered a factor in approval of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, the VA does not consider the effect of a Veteran’s age when determining eligibility for TDIU. Additionally, any non-service connected disabilities that you may have will not be considered in evaluating your TDIU application.
Evidence Needed for TDIU
The results of your Compensation and Pension (C&P) examination provide a baseline assessment of the severity of your condition. At this exam, you should provide a full and complete picture of your symptoms and how they affect your daily life. Veterans are often reluctant to admit their difficulties due to mental health issues, but the VA needs to understand your daily functioning in order to make an accurate assessment of your condition.
If your work history shows that you have switched jobs frequently, had poor performance reviews, and were disciplined for excessive absences, this supports your claim that PTSD is preventing you from holding substantial gainful employment.
Lay statements from family members, friends, and former coworkers who have seen the impact of PTSD on your daily life can also be helpful in providing a clear picture of how your condition affects your ability to work. Statements can describe symptoms such as:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Being easily distracted
- Struggling to stay organized
- Not following instructions
- Uncontrolled anger
- Trouble interacting with others
- Fatigue due to poor sleep
- Feeling unsafe when asked to leave home
Lay statements should be signed and dated, with a detailed description of how the person preparing the statement has knowledge of your PTSD. For example, if your spouse is preparing a statement, he or she would include how long you’ve been married and how long you knew each other before marriage.
Statements about your ability to perform work-related tasks should be consistent with your activities at home. For example, if you are basing your claim on trouble concentrating, being able to help your child with homework, balance a checkbook, and perform other personal tasks requiring mental focus would cast doubt on the seriousness of your condition.
In some cases, private medical opinions may be recommended as a way to further substantiate your claim. These options can be especially helpful when you have secondary-service connected disabilities such as anxiety, depression, panic disorder, or sleep apnea and need to provide a fuller picture of how your condition affects your ability to hold paid employment.
How We Can Help
PTSD, like other mental health conditions, is often misunderstood and subject to unfair stigma. If you believe your application for TDIU benefits has been unfairly denied, you should contact an experienced Veterans disability attorney as soon as possible. The VA often denies applications due to misinterpretations of the law, so it’s important to have someone who can advocate for your interests throughout the appeals process.
The office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, has over 20 years of experience helping Veterans with PTSD access the benefits they earned while serving our country. Call our office or fill out the contact form on this page to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.