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4 Things to Know About Individual Unemployability

Many veterans don’t know about a VA benefit called Individual Unemployability. If you are a veteran and cannot maintain full-time employment because of a service-connected disability, you may qualify for Individual Unemployability, and you should consider applying. Here are four things to know about what IU is and how you can apply.

1. What is Individual Unemployability?

Veterans who are unemployed or can no longer work due to a service-connected disability can apply for a VA benefit called Individual Unemployability (IU), or Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU). IU increases a veteran’s disability compensation to the 100% level even if the VA has not rated their service-connected disability at the 100% level. For example, if a vet has been trained for the construction trade, but can’t work because of a service-connected disability rated at 70%, he may be eligible for 100% disability compensation. Here’s another example from an excellent blog post written by VA claims processor Dominique Joseph.

2. Who is eligible for IU?

Veterans must meet several criteria in order to receive IU compensation. First, they must be unable to maintain substantially gainful employment because of a service-connected disability. This means the veteran must be unable to maintain full-time employment that pays a wage greater than the poverty level. The VA does not consider odd jobs to be substantial gainful employment.

Second, the veteran must have one of the following:

  • One service-connected disability rated at 60% or higher.
  • Two or more service-connected disabilities, with at least one rated 40% or higher, and with a combined rating of 70%.

Don’t forget, the VA disability rating system is not additive, which means if a veteran has two disability ratings, one at the 60% level and one at the 10% level, their combined rating is not 70%. According to the VA’s Combined Ratings Table, the combined rating would actually be 64%. This is because the second rating is applied to an already disabled veteran, or the 10% rating is applied to the 60% rating.

Third, the veteran must present evidence of why the service-connected disability prevents the vet from working full-time. The VA provides the following example of a veteran who received IU:

“A veteran has a service-connected heart condition. She has been able to work without difficulty until last year, when she began to experience chest pain with any exertion. Her physician recommended that she retire as soon as possible. She subsequently filed a claim for increased disability compensation. Evidence regarding the veteran’s work history and education were reviewed by the Rating Team. As it confirmed the veteran was ‘individually unemployable’ due to her service-connected disability, entitlement to compensation at the rate payable to a 100% disabled veteran was granted.”

3. What if I don’t meet the requirements?

The VA will consider a veteran for IU who does not meet the above criteria if the following are met:

  • The veteran cannot maintain substantially gainful employment due to a service-connected disability but fails to meet the disability percentage standards.
  • Evidence of impairment of earning capacity due to a disability is presented, such as repeated hospitalization.

If the VA grants you an exception, you may have to complete and submit a questionnaire each year for the VA to continue to approve you for IU.

4. How do I apply?

There are several ways to apply for IU:

  • You can apply online through the eBenefits protal.
  • You can complete and submit VA Form 21-8940, Veterans Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability. It’s recommended to work with your local Veterans Service Officer or a VA employee at your regional VA facility to complete the application.

For questions about Individual Unemployability or getting connected with the VA, call us today at 614-230-0662.