You can apply for Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits by filling out a three-page form commonly referred to as the 8940. Officially known as the VA Form 21-8940, this serves as the application for TDIU.
Applying for TDIU benefits requires answering questions about what disabilities are preventing you from working, your work history, medical information like what doctors you have been seeing as well as whether you have been hospitalized, and your level of education. In other words, you must demonstrate why you are unable to maintain substantially gainful employment as a result of your service-connected disabilities.
Most veterans applying for TDIU benefits have already applied for and received some type of disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It is the same type of procedure and may be completed online through VA systems, through a veteran service organization, by going directly to VA, or by requesting assistance from an attorney.
Most of the time, former servicemembers seeking TDIU benefits identify medical providers on the 8940 form and list records which have not already been obtained by VA. If those medical records are at a VA facility, then the agency could obtain those without any additional permission from the veteran. If they are at a private facility, like a doctor’s office, the veteran would also need to fill out a separate form that allows VA to obtain those medical records.
A veteran should apply for general disability before they apply for TDIU benefits. While they could apply for both at the same time, it is more unusual to do so. The disability rating that a former servicemember receives – which could be anywhere from zero percent to 100 percent – serves as the foundation for the award of TDIU, and that rating needs to be in place already or applied for at the same time as TDIU.
In other words, the application for TDIU is part and parcel of the underlying claim for benefits, although the application may be filed at any time. The award of TDIU may be based on one or more service-connected conditions, but a veteran must be rated for at least one condition to be approved.
After applying for TDIU, it can take anywhere from two months to a year for a veteran to receive an initial decision. Every case is different, and some are more complex than others. The process is different for every veteran, which is why there is such a disparity between the time-frames for a former servicemember applying for TDIU. It’s also important to note that many TDIU applications are denied, and the appeals process for obtaining TDIU can be lengthy.
Since TDIU is part and parcel of the underlying claim for benefits, a veteran may also choose to file the form for TDIU during an appeal. The time frame for any appeal varies widely, depending on the type of appeal chosen and at what level the appeal is taken.
Some of the issues that commonly delay an initial TDIU decision include not listing an address for an employer or a medical provider or failing to sign the form that allows VA to obtain those records. Veterans should also be sure to keep their contact information up to date with VA, including their phone number and address, since VA commonly needs to request additional information during the TDIU determination process.