light bulb

The VA TDIU Process: The 5 Steps You Need To Know

Legally reviewed by Brendan Garcia , Owner and Lead Attorney

Total Disability Based On Individual Unemployability (TDIU) is a benefit available to Veterans who find themselves unable to obtain and maintain substantially gainful employment due to a service-connected disability or combination of service-connected disabilities. This benefit can be incredibly important to maintaining the quality of life for a disabled Veteran, but receiving the benefit can be a daunting process that requires many steps.

Understanding the process of receiving TDIU from the VA can take some of the mystery out of the process and make it easier to navigate.

Step 1: Qualify for TDIU

The first step in the VA TDIU process is qualifying. As the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs outlines, there are specific requirements to qualify for this benefit. All qualifying applicants must meet this condition:

  • Be unable to hold down a steady job that meets minimum financial needs because of a service-connected disability

In addition, to qualify based on schedular criteria, applicants must meet one of the following TDIU rating conditions:

  • Have at least one service-connected disability that is rated at 60% or higher
  • Have at least two service-connected disabilities with one rated 40% or higher and have a combined rating equal to 70% or more

If you don’t meet one of the above schedular criteria, don’t worry – you can still apply for extraschedular TDIU. Typically, qualifying will require records of job employment and medical history. It’s important to remember that odd jobs (which are referred to as “marginal employment”) do not disqualify you for these benefits. In addition, it is possible that you were able to obtain and maintain steady and adequate employment in the past but the progression of the impact of a service-connected disability has changed your employability. In other words, if your condition has worsened over time, you may qualify for TDIU from VA when you did not qualify in the past.

Step 2: File a Claim

If you believe you are eligible for TDIU benefits, you will start the process by filing a claim with the VA. This application will initially go to the VA Regional Office (VARO). The VA is divided up into four regional districts, and each state has one primary regional office location. The form used to file for unemployability is VA Form 21-8940.

Filling out this form will require several pieces of information including the following:

  • Medical details
  • Education and training history
  • Disability details
  • Employment history (for your last five years of work; not necessarily the last five calendar years)

Step 3: Receive a Decision

The VA Regional Office will receive and review your application, potentially scheduling new C&P exams or conducting other development. At that point, you will receive a decision based on the information you gave. This decision process can take several months, but if you are approved, you will likely receive retroactive benefits to the date of application. If you are approved for TDIU from VA, then the application process is complete.

Many people, however, will get denied at this stage in the application process. At this point, you are eligible for an appeal, but the appeal must be made within one year. The TDIU appeal process with the VA is complex and time-consuming, and this can be a good point in the process to seek help from an experienced attorney to make the task easier.

FAQ: What Is The Five Year Rule?

Step 4: (If Denied) File an Appeal

If your claim is denied, you have the right to seek an appeal. You can choose to either file a Supplemental Claim, request for Higher Level Review (HLR), or a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). No matter how you decide to appeal the decision, you must remember that you only have a year to take action.

There are a few things to understand about each path before deciding which option to pursue.

Supplemental Claim

A supplemental claim is a way for you to provide the VA with additional evidence they may not have had access to when making their initial decision. This claim must add NEW evidence supporting your claim, it cannot simply point out that they misinterpreted previously supplied information. You can either submit the evidence yourself or request that the VA get the particular evidence for you, in which case you will need to include a VA Form 21-4142. A supplemental claim will be reviewed at the same level as your initial TDIU claim.

Higher Level Review (HLR)

If you don’t have any additional evidence to supply, you can request a higher-level review. This review will be conducted by a senior level reviewer and can be requested after an initial decision, or after a decision following a supplemental claim. It is important to keep in mind that you will not be able to submit any additional evidence, but you or your representative will have the opportunity to have a conversation (an informal phone conference) with the reviewer to discuss the decision or identify any errors.

Notice of Disagreement (NOD)

A Notice of Disagreement is a way of formally documenting your disagreement with a decision that the VA has issued. The NOD has been around for a long time, but the process has been updated since the appeals process was reformed. In order to file a Notice of Disagreement, you will need to fill out VA Form 10182 on which you will have the opportunity to indicate whether you would like to request a hearing before the board, supply additional information, or simply request that a BVA judge make a decision without a hearing or new evidence.

Step 5: Receive a New Decision

Once again, you will need to wait for a decision. Depending on the appeal path you chose, you will either receive a new rating decision from the RO or a decision from BVA.

As you can see, getting approval for TDIU from VA can be a long and arduous process, and having an experienced attorney help you with putting together your testimony and evidence can be an important step to make your appeal go as smoothly as possible.

Reach out today to schedule a free case review.