Facts and Myths on a ChalkboardTotal Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits are often misunderstood. If you are applying for VA disability, it’s important to separate the myths from the facts.

Myth #1: If You Qualify for SSDI, You’ll Qualify for TDIU

Although both programs are intended to provide monthly cash payments for individuals with disabilities, qualifying for one doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be approved for the other. Each program has its own rules and eligibility requirements.

Some of the key difference between TDIU and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) include:

  • SSDI has more lenient requirements for older applicants, but TDIU doesn’t consider age in determining eligibility for benefits.
  • SSDI considers all disabilities, but TDIU only considers how service-concerned disabilities affect a Veteran’s ability to work.
  • SSDI has stricter requirements for beneficiaries who plan to work and collect monthly payments, so there is no allowance made for those in a protected work environment.

Myth #2: Only Veterans Who Meet the Schedular Criteria Qualify for TDIU

Generally, Veterans receiving TDIU have one service-connected disability with a rating of 60% or higher or two or more service-connected disabilities with a combined disability rating of 70% or higher and one disability rated 40% or higher. In some cases, however, Veterans can qualify for extra-schedular TDIU.

Extra-schedular TDIU is for Veterans with disabilities that prevent them from working even though they don’t meet the standard percentage thresholds. This could be a condition requiring frequent hospitalizations but is most often associated with back pain or other issues that prevent Veterans with no higher education or job training from working in physically demanding jobs.

Myth #3: TDIU Is Only for Physical Disabilities

Although many Veterans with TDIU have physical disabilities, mental health conditions such as PTSD and depression often qualify for TDIU as well. These conditions can affect your ability to work in many ways. For example:

  • PTSD can make it difficult to tolerate crowds and noise.
  • Veterans with PTSD can experience angry outbursts and lash out towards coworkers or customers.
  • Depression can cause fatigue and trouble concentrating.
  • Depression can make tasks feel overwhelming and cause you to have trouble sticking to a set schedule. 

Myth #4: You Can’t Work While Receiving TDIU

Since “unemployability” is in the program’s name, it’s understandable to assume you’re not allowed to work at all while receiving TDIU benefits. However, Veterans can work while receiving TDIU as long as their jobs aren’t considered substantially gainful employment. This means you are allowed to work in odd jobs, temporary jobs, or seasonal jobs paying less than a poverty-level wage.

Veterans can earn higher wages if their position qualifies as a protected work environment. The definition of this term is decided on a case-by-case basis but generally means the position involves working for someone who is making additional accommodations for the Veteran’s disability. Often, this is a friend or family member who allows for additional breaks, a flexible schedule, reduced productivity, or other accommodations beyond what is legally required for disabled employees.

Myth #5: TDIU Is Permanent

Once you’ve been awarded TDIU benefits, this rating isn’t necessarily permanent. If your circumstances change and you’re able to maintain substantially gainful employment, you no longer qualify for TDIU. For example, if you use your GI Bill benefits to go back to school and train for a job that accommodates your condition, you’d no longer qualify for TDIU after you found work. Instead, you’d receive VA disability benefits based on a lower percentage rating that only considers the severity of your symptoms.

TDIU benefits can also be awarded on a temporary basis from the beginning. For example, temporary TDIU benefits can be awarded for an extended hospital stay, surgery, immobilization, or pre-stabilization of an injury that occurred shortly before a Veteran was discharged. This type of TDIU is generally awarded for six months or less, and the Veteran receives compensation based on their lower percentage rating when the TDIU approval expires.

Contact Our Office for Help

If you’ve been denied TDIU benefits, contact the office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, to request a free, no-obligation initial consultation. Our experienced Veterans benefits attorneys can guide you through the appeals process and help you access the benefits you need to provide for yourself and your loved ones.