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What is VA Individual Unemployability? | VetLaw

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Service-related disabilities can render a veteran unable to keep up with the demands of a job, which may make them eligible for VA disability benefits based on individual unemployability.


  • Veterans with service-related disabilities may qualify for VA disability benefits based on Individual Unemployability if their conditions impair their ability to work non-marginal jobs.
  • The VA sets standards for Individual Unemployability, including benchmarks for disability ratings and the ability to keep a steady job.
  • Veterans classified as Individually Unemployable may qualify for total disability benefits, known as TDIU benefits, without a 100% disability rating.
  • If the VA has denied your disability benefits claim related to Individual Unemployability or you want to appeal for additional compensation, you should consult a veterans disability claims attorney about which appeals path to take.

Many veterans with service-connected conditions find it difficult to work at the same pace they were once able to. If your service-related disabilities have impaired your ability to support yourself, you should consider seeking an Individual Employability status with the VA.

At VetLaw, we have experience proving Individual Unemployability and convincing the VA to grant our clients’ appeals for disability benefits. As veterans disability appeals lawyers, we have spent the last decade ensuring fair outcomes for former service members and their families. 

Reach out to our team at VetLaw by calling us at (855) 670-0614 or filling out our contact form today to schedule a free consultation.

How Does the VA Determine Individual Unemployability Status

Individual Unemployability is a designation given to veterans who can’t work to support themselves due to service-related injuries or illnesses. The VA maintains specific criteria for Individual Unemployability, which can seem like an insurmountable hurdle. 

Let’s take a closer look at the VA’s definition of Individual Unemployability: A veteran must demonstrate that their service-connected disabilities prevent them from keeping a stable job. 

First, note that the VA says you must have difficulty holding a job, not getting a job. Maybe you are able to get hired, but employers keep letting you go because you can’t handle the demands of the job. This is the kind of situation that the VA is referring to.

Second, the VA is talking about a certain kind of job. Let’s say you are employed part-time at your family’s store, work odd jobs, or have another form of marginal employment. These types of jobs typically don’t allow veterans to earn enough income to provide for themselves.

The VA is concerned with veterans who lack “substantially gainful employment”, so if you are working in a role like we just described, you can still qualify for Individual Unemployability with the VA.

Finally, your inability to maintain gainful employment must be based on your service-connected conditions. You will need to offer evidence that your military service caused or aggravated your physical or mental disabilities, which are now interfering with your employability.

The purpose of offering this status is to help veterans who lack the mental or physical capacity to be able to provide for themselves and need the extra support, but whose disabilities aren’t severe enough to meet the requirements for a higher level of VA benefits.

Individual Unemployability May Entitle Veterans to Total Disability Benefits

Total Disability benefits are usually reserved for veterans who have a 100% VA disability rating because they are significantly impaired by one or more service-related disabilities that prevent them from working.

However, veterans who are classified as Individually Unemployable may also be eligible for the same amount of benefits without a 100% VA disability rating.

When a veteran qualifies for Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability, their compensation is referred to as TDIU benefits. In addition to showing you are incapable of maintaining gainful employment, you will need to establish one of the following:

  • You have a 60% VA disability rating for a service-related condition
  • Or, you have multiple service-related conditions with a 70% VA disability rating, and at least one of them has a 40% VA disability rating

Check out the 2024 VA disability compensation rates to see how IU could impact your benefits.

Appealing a Claim Denial Based on Individual Unemployability

Service-related health conditions can evolve to become more serious after an initial C&P exam. Veterans may find themselves struggling to maintain employment due to a worsening service-related disability or a Secondary Condition.

If your current VA disability benefits don’t reflect the extent of your impairment in regards to holding a job, you may have grounds for a VA TDIU appeal. To demonstrate that you are Individually Unemployable, you will need to provide documentation that you are eligible based on the VA’s definition.

This could include statements from bosses and co-workers, medical records, and your work history. Veterans disability claims attorneys can assist you with compiling this information and pursuing an appeal with the VA. If you’re attempting to secure benefits under the Appeals Modernization Act, you have three options.

You can request a Higher-Level Review with a knowledgeable evaluator, offer additional evidence with a Supplemental Claim, or take your disability benefits appeal in front of the Board of Veterans’ Affairs for a decision. Depending on the outcome, you could receive years of TDIU back pay.

Don’t Wait to Contact VetLaw About Qualifying for VA Benefits With Individual Unemployability

Vets who put off seeking disability benefits based on Individual Unemployability are doing themselves a disservice. Many IU-eligible veterans are facing growing financial burdens and filing an appeal with the VA can be a time-consuming process, so it is better to get started sooner rather than later. 

VetLaw is available and capable of assisting you with this effort. Our team of exceptional veterans disability claims denial lawyers understands what it takes to secure VA disability benefits based on Individual Unemployability, and we are here to support you.

We encourage you to schedule a free consultation by calling us at (855) 670-0614 or filling out our contact form today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I automatically get a 100% disability rating if the VA approves my Individual Unemployability?

No. The point of awarding disability benefits for Individual Unemployability is that veterans who don’t have a 100% disability rating but still need that level of support. Even if you start receiving benefits based on Individual Unemployability, you’ll keep your current VA disability rating unless there is a medical reason to update it.

Can I still work if I am receiving TDIU benefits from the VA?

There are limitations on employment if you are receiving TDIU benefits. If you want to remain eligible for TDIU benefits, you can’t hold “substantially gainful employment”. In contrast, there are no work restrictions on veterans who are receiving 100% disability benefits.

Are Total Disability Benefits due to Individual Unemployability permanent?

TDIU benefits may be permanent for some vets. However, the VA does not automatically guarantee that TDIU benefits are permanent in all cases. If your service-related disability or Secondary Condition improves and your disability ratings no longer meet the criteria for Individual Unemployability, the VA may reduce your disability benefits.

Depending on how the VA’s 10 and 20-year rules apply to your case, you may achieve a protected status for your disability ratings. This could help you maintain access to additional disability benefits based on Individual Unemployability.