There are some common issues that veterans face when pursuing Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits. Many veterans assume that because they are unemployed and receive some disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), they automatically qualify for TDIU. However, that is not the case.
A veteran must show that their service-connected disabilities prevent them from maintaining substantially gainful employment in order to qualify for TDIU disability benefits. This is usually the most difficult part of obtaining compensation from VA.
VA does not treat these claims the same as many others, as there is more of a burden on a veteran to show why they are entitled to TDIU disability compensation. For this reason, it is best to work with a VA-accredited attorney who can advise you on the mistakes to avoid when applying for TDIU disability benefits.
There are several ways an experienced TDIU lawyer could prevent or minimize the effects of potential challenges during the process of obtaining disability benefits. For example, a member of our team can review what is already in a veteran’s file as well as the ratings they are receiving and come up with a game plan for developing the evidence prior to applying for TDIU.
A former servicemember who is not represented by an attorney may apply for TDIU without understanding how VA makes the determination to award TDIU benefits. We can help review everything and file an application for TDIU by filling in some of the gaps in information and correcting any errors that may be present in a veteran’s record. This can help avoid mistakes that would otherwise prolong the TDIU application process.
One common mistake that veterans make when applying for TDIU disability benefits is filling out the application form (VA Form 21-8940) without giving themselves enough time to think about what information they want to include. The form asks a former servicemember which service-connected disabilities prevent them from maintaining substantially gainful employment.
Some veterans only list their worst disability, while others simply put nothing in that box. Some applicants list a couple of disabilities or those which are not already service-connected. These are all mistakes to avoid when applying for TDIU.
A veteran’s entitlement to TDIU disability compensation can only be based on disabilities that are already service-connected by VA. Listing too few or even too many disabilities, including those that are not already service-connected, could hinder VA’s processing of the claim and lead to a premature denial of benefits.
Furthermore, veterans commonly fail to review their own medical records to determine whether they should apply for increased ratings or for different disabilities prior to applying for TDIU. Getting records in order, updating medical documents, and establishing the severity of an impairment before applying for TDIU is vital, because that serves as the foundation for a strong application.
Entitlement to TDIU is based on a combination of medical and vocational evidence. Most veterans do not obtain or do not have any vocational evidence in their file. VetLaw’s team of attorneys can work with vocational experts to review a veteran’s claim file and provide a qualified opinion regarding their ability to maintain substantially gainful employment. This kind of opinion can sometimes be the type of evidence which tips the scales in favor of winning entitlement to TDIU.