You don’t realize how much you rely on your vision to perform everyday tasks until an eye condition makes it difficult to see. Veterans with eye conditions leading to an impairment that makes it difficult to maintain substantially gainful employment may qualify for Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits.
Types of Eye Conditions Eligible for VA Disability Benefits
Eye conditions related to a Veteran’s military service are evaluated under 38 CFR § 4.79, Schedule of Ratings – Eye, Diagnostic Codes 6000 to 6091. The list of eligible impairments includes conditions resulting from injuries, exposure to dangerous chemicals, and illness. For example:
- Loss of one or both eyes
- Loss of sight
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Double vision
- Blurry vision
- Retinal conditions
- Neurological conditions resulting in visual impairment
Eye conditions eligible for disability benefits can be directly connected to military service or have a secondary service connection. A secondary service-connected condition is one that is caused by a condition that has already received a service connection. For example, a Veteran with service-connected diabetes could receive a secondary service connection for retinopathy, glaucoma, or cataracts caused by poor control of blood sugar levels.
How Eye Conditions Are Rated
All eye conditions are rated from 0% to 100% based on the level of impairment they present. There are the three main considerations used in determining an appropriate rating:
- Central visual acuity. A standard eye chart is used to measure how focused or blurry images are at specific distances. Measurements are based on corrected vision unless the impairment can’t be corrected, and both eyes are rated together.
- Visual field. A person’s visual field is the area the eye can see—encompassing peripheral vision, upper vision, lower vision, and central vision.
- Muscle function. This measurement describes how well the muscles of the eye are able to move upward, downward, and from side to side.
An optometrist or ophthalmologist must complete a Compensation & Pension (C&P) examination to determine a Veteran’s disability rating.
Available Healthcare Benefits
In addition to being eligible for cash compensation, service-connected eye conditions qualify for VA healthcare benefits. The VA will cover routine eye exams, preventive vision testing, and prescription eyeglasses. Additional information about covered vision care services can be found on the VA website.
It is very difficult to obtain a 100% rating for an eye condition, especially if a Veteran is not legally blind. However, TDIU provides medical care and monetary compensation at the 100% schedular rating level if a Veteran’s eye condition and other service-connected disabilities create substantial employment barriers.
There are two general requirements a Veteran must meet to be eligible for TDIU.
- Disability rating. If a Veteran has a single service-connected condition, it must be rated at 60% or more. If a Veteran has two or more service-connected conditions, one must be rated at least 40% disabling, and they must have a combined rating of 70% or more.
- Employment history. A Veteran can only receive TDIU if their condition prevents them from successfully maintaining substantially gainful employment. In most cases, this is defined as earning above a poverty-level wage when no special accommodations are being made for a Veteran’s disability.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) determinations can be used to support your claim for TDIU, but it’s important to remember that these programs have different eligibility criteria. It’s possible to be approved for SSDI and denied TDIU—especially if you have disabilities unrelated to your military service that create additional barriers to employment.
When Your TDIU Request Has Been Denied, We Can Help
Requests for TDIU benefits are often unfairly denied due to simple application errors or misinterpretations of the law. However, you don’t have to go through the appeals process alone.
Our experienced attorneys can protect your rights throughout the appeals process and help you get the benefits you deserve. Contact the office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, or fill out the contact form on this page to request a free, no-obligation initial consultation.