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How Vocational Experts for TDIU Can Help Make Your Case

Legally reviewed by Brendan Garcia , Owner and Lead Attorney

Oftentimes, veterans return from their service with conditions that seriously impact their day-to-day lives and routines. In some cases, they are unable to work and support their families as they usually would. While the VA offers compensation to veterans struggling with a service-connected disability, any veteran who has attempted to file a claim with the VA understands the difficulty of successfully obtaining TDIU benefits.

In the majority of TDIU claims, the VA depends on medical professionals to evaluate the seriousness of a veteran’s condition and determine if they are eligible for compensation. A vocational expert can provide a new, valuable perspective about a veteran’s disability and employability. From our experience, their opinion can make the difference between a claim being denied and a claim being approved. At VetLaw, we regularly use vocational experts for TDIU to support our clients’ cases. To learn more, schedule a free case review with our team today.

What Is a Vocational Expert?

A vocational expert is an individual whose training, education, and experience qualifies them to provide insight into the skills and requirements needed to perform a job. Often, vocational experts have experience with a range of fields and industries. A skilled vocational expert will use their knowledge of current occupational trends as well as the labor market in a specific community to provide evidence of a veteran’s capacity to return to their former job role or secure employment in another field.

When the VA decides whether to award a veteran TDIU benefits, they look at a variety of factors including written statements, medical records, and relevant evaluations. Vocational experts for TDIU may be called upon to perform a comprehensive vocational assessment, which can then be used to support your TDIU claim. Since a vocational expert is a neutral and objective witness with no vested interest in your case, their testimony can be incredibly beneficial to your case.

What Are Vocational Assessments and How Do They Relate to TDIU?

A vocational assessment is conducted with the goal of answering whether your disability prevents you from obtaining substantially gainful employment. Substantially gainful employment is considered any employment that is ordinarily followed by nondisabled individuals to earn a living. This typically refers to employment that results in an income that exceeds the poverty threshold.

When making a decision about your TDIU claim, the VA will rely largely on the opinion of doctors and medical providers to determine whether your impairment prevents you from sustaining substantially gainful employment. Medical professionals typically do not have the expertise necessary to determine whether a veteran can engage in a specific type of work.

This is exactly where vocational assessments come into play. These assessments bridge the gap between your medical evidence and your reported inability to work. A vocational assessment is a multi-step evaluation performed by a vocational expert to contextualize your disability in terms of the present labor market. During a vocational assessment, your vocational expert will look at your transferable skills and prior job experience to determine whether you are unable to work.

What Is Involved in a Vocational Assessment?

When performing a vocational assessment, the vocational expert will sit down with you and your attorney to listen to your story and learn about the specific facts of the case. They will use this information to assess your ability to communicate with coworkers, adapt to stressful situations, and whether you would require special accommodations to successfully perform your job duties. The vocational expert for TDIU will then weigh your unique circumstances with current opportunities in the labor market to determine your employability.

The specific details of a vocational assessment varies from expert to expert, but during the evaluation you can expect:

  • An initial review of your medical, service, and employment-related documents to gain a fuller understanding of your disability and your professional work experience.
  • An interview with your vocational expert, who will ask questions about your situation, your background, and your goals.
  • Vocational testing to determine your employability based on the TDIU criteria. Your vocational expert may also perform a transferable skills assessment or job market survey to compare your skills with the demands of your unique labor market.
  • A comprehensive report outlining the expert’s final opinion. This report will articulate the vocational expert’s conclusions about your employability. They may identify other roles you can work in, taking into account your impairments and your prior experience. If appropriate, the expert may also indicate the range of wages that could be earned in jobs that you are capable of performing.

Since vocational experts are well-versed in the VA process, they can craft a statement that uniquely benefits your case. By offering an entirely new perspective that would otherwise not be considered by the VA in their decision-making, they can help strengthen your TDIU claim and appeal.

How Can Testimony from a Vocational Expert Help a TDIU Claim Appeal?

TDIU claims are often initially denied by the VA, forcing veterans to submit an appeal to continue pursuing benefits. Your initial claim may be denied for a variety of reasons, including insufficient medical evidence or lack of direct connection between your disability and unemployability.

The individuals determining your employability are evaluators with no formal training as vocational experts. If your claim consists of medical evidence and nothing else, the evaluator is missing a critical part of the big picture. How are they able to determine your employability without information regarding your educational and professional background, as well as your ability to engage in work in the current labor market?

A veteran cannot engage in work that he or she is not qualified for. A testimony from a vocational expert for TDIU can help provide this context to your claim, identifying your residual functional capacity and past work experience to explain how your disability limits your ability to work and earn a substantially gainful income.

How Does VetLaw Use Vocational Experts?

At VetLaw, we proactively use vocational expert testimonies to support our client’s claims and claim appeals. Our appeals lawyers challenge VA examiners by proving that their lack of investigation into your educational and vocational background prevented them from making an accurate decision about your employability. We regularly look to vocational experts to obtain key evidence that supports our clients’ TDIU claims.

Vocational experts provide a perspective that the VA would not otherwise consider. After representing countless veterans in their pursuit of TDIU benefits, we understand the value of vocational assessments. Indeed, these assessments can – and often do – provide great value and we regularly leverage testimonies from vocational experts to secure a favorable outcome for our clients.

Contact Our Team of Experienced Attorneys Today

While the VA process may seem complex and mysterious, there are identifiable reasons why TDIU claims are denied. After spending years representing veterans in their pursuit of TDIU benefits, we understand the factors that play a critical role in the VA’s evaluation of your claim.

At VetLaw, we use our unique insight to guide our clients through the process of successfully securing TDIU benefits. When necessary, we will call upon vocational experts for TDIU to strengthen your case and obtain the benefits you deserve. To discuss your case with our experienced team of attorneys, consider scheduling your free case review today.