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What is TDIU? How do I Qualify? How do I Apply?

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Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) is a crucial benefit provided by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to support veterans who are unable to work due to service-connected disabilities. TDIU grants qualifying veterans the same compensation rate as those with a 100% disability rating, even if their overall rating falls below that threshold. The primary purpose of TDIU is to ensure that veterans who suffer from service-connected disabilities are provided with adequate financial assistance. In this blog post, we will delve into the essentials of TDIU claims, discussing its eligibility criteria, and the application process.

How do I Qualify for TDIU?

Veterans qualify for TDIU benefits when they are unable to work at a substantial gainful occupation due to service connected conditions (or a combination of service connected conditions). TDIU benefits result in a payment amount at the 100% rate, even when a veteran’s combined rating is less than 100%. TDIU exists because the VA recognizes that the schedular rating system does not cover all situations where a veteran may not be able to engage in self-support work due to service connected impairments. TDIU benefits are the same as they are for veterans rated at 100%. Basic eligibility requirements for TDIU are:

  1. Service-Connected Disability: The veteran must have one or more service-connected disabilities that have been rated by the VA. These disabilities must be related to injuries or conditions incurred or aggravated during active military service.
  2. Employment Limitations: The veteran must be unable to maintain substantially gainful employment due to their service-connected disabilities. Substantially gainful employment refers to the ability to earn a certain level of income, which varies from year to year and depends on factors like education, skill set, and job market conditions.
  3. Combined Disability Rating: The veteran’s total combined disability rating must meet the minimum requirement set by the VA for either schedular or extraschedular TDIU.

Pursuant to 38 C.F.R. 4.16 there are two ways to qualify for consideration of a TDIU benefit claim.

Schedular TDIU

This method looks at the VA disability rating when considering whether or not a veteran is eligible for unemployability benefits. A veteran must have one impairment rated at 60% or have a combined rating of 70% with at least one impairment rated at 40%. The VA knows that if you have all of these problems, you may not be able to work enough to support yourself and your family.

Extraschedular TDIU

A veteran who does not meet the schedular criteria, but who has an unusual disability picture can be sent for consideration of an extraschedular rating. The VA will consider whether the service-connected disabilities prevent the veteran from being about support themselves financially.

How do I apply for Individual Unemployability?

You may have already filed a TDIU application without realizing it. TDIU claims do not have to be filed separately and are supposed to be considered by the VA in any claim for service connection or a rating increase where the unemployability is raised in the record. However, if you are unable to maintain work due to your health, it is always best to specifically tell the VA that you want TDIU to be considered.

VA Form 21-8940

There is a form (VA Form 21-8940) that you need to submit, but you can also just include a statement such as “I cannot work due to my service related impairments. Consider my claim for TDIU.” on your application or request for an increased rating. That will start your claim. You will still need to complete the 21-8940 form for the VA to give them the financial and work information needed to consider your claim. If you do not include it with your application, the VA will mail it to you.

Effective Date of TDIU Claims

Often the VA will assign an effective date for your TDIU benefits as the date you submitted the 21-8940. However, this is often the incorrect date. The VA is required to consider any claim for benefits as a claim for the maximum amount possible. This means that if you tell the VA as part of your application for benefits that you are unable to work because of your conditions (or the VA is on notice because you tell the C&P examiner or write on your application that you get Social Security Disability benefits) then the effective date is the date you filed your claim, not the date you submitted the VA TDIU form.


By understanding the eligibility criteria, gathering the necessary evidence, and approaching the application process diligently, veterans can increase their chances of obtaining the benefits they rightfully deserve. While the process might be challenging, the support and financial assistance provided through TDIU can make a significant difference in the lives of disabled veterans, enabling them to lead more fulfilling and comfortable lives after their devoted service to the nation.

If you want to talk about your case with a veterans attorney accredited by the VA, please call our office at 888-966-6566 or use the Free Veterans Case Evaluation form . We look forward to speaking with you.

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Established in 2011, Lunn & Forro, PLLC, is a client-focused firm recognized for excellence in providing top-level legal services. We assist the sick, injured and disabled in obtaining the benefits that they are entitled to receive.

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