Many Veterans rated at less than 100 percent disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) cannot work due to their service-connected disabilities. This can be frustrating because, while the Veteran believes they should be assigned a total disability rating, VA does not believe that their symptoms qualify for a 100 percent rating.
In situations like this, it is possible for the Veteran to be paid by VA at the 100 percent rate, even though the Veteran doesn’t have a 100 percent rating. This important VA benefit is called Individual Unemployability (IU) or Total Disability for Individual Unemployability (TDIU).
In short, VA grants the IU benefit to the veteran once VA has determined the Veteran can’t work due to service-connected disabilities. The decision is supposed to be based on the Veteran’s individual circumstances, including their work history, skills, training, and education. Keep in mind that IU is not a benefit for Veterans who are temporarily out of work.
Here’s how IU works. According to VA regulations, in order to qualify for IU, a Veteran must be unable to maintain substantially gainful employment and have one of the following VA ratings:
Even if a Veteran qualifies, IU can still be difficult to obtain, especially if a VA doctor fails to fully describe the Veteran’s level of disability. At Bergmann & Moore, we work to win our Veteran clients service connection, and we also ensure the proper ratings are established, including entitlement to IU.
Understanding VA’s complex rules for IU and then submitting all of the paperwork can be a challenge for Veterans, especially when there is a mental health condition involved, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or military sexual trauma (MST).
Bergmann & Moore remains dedicated to assisting veterans obtain benefits from VA. If you filed an IU claim that was denied by VA, or if you can’t work due to a service-connected disability, then Bergmann & Moore may be able to assist you with this type of complex claim appeal. Please contact Bergmann & Moore for a FREE consultation.
STEP ONE: Is the Veteran unable to maintain substantially gainful employment?
~ If no, then the Veteran is not qualified. If yes, then go to STEP TWO.
STEP TWO: Does the Veteran have at least one condition rated 60 percent or higher?
~ If no, go to STEP THREE. If yes, then the Veteran may be qualified.
STEP THREE: Does the Veteran have at least one condition rated 40 percent or higher and a combined rating of 70 percent?
~ If no, then the Veteran is not qualified. If yes, then the Veteran may be qualified.
EXAMPLE ONE: Single Veteran, no dependents: VA granted a 70 percent combined rating, paid at the 70 percent rate = $1,403.71 per month, or $16,844.52 per year.
EXAMPLE TWO: Single Veteran, no dependents: 70 percent rating on PTSD, VA granted IU, and paid at 100 percent rate = $3,057.13 per month, or $36,685.56 per year.
BOTTOM LINE: The Veteran’s increased compensation based on a VA grant of IU is nearly $20,000.00 per year.
Agent Orange Exposure
One specific disease, Glioblastoma Multiforme, is a type of malignant brain tumor, often found in veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during service. However, VA has not yet acknowledged that these tumors are due to Agent Orange exposure and therefore they are not on VA’s presumptive list. Sadly, when a veteran passes away from a non-presumptive condition such as Glioblastoma, their surviving spouse is often unable to obtain benefits on their own.
Burn Pit Exposure
Bergmann & Moore recognizes that many veterans from the Gulf War era, Operating Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation New Dawn (OND), and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS) may have been exposed to hazardous materials that were burned as a form of waste management.
The Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) provides Veterans with five options on what to do when you receive a Board denial. In our experience there is only ONE reasonable option—appeal the BVA decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals to Veterans Claims (CAVC).
Dependency and Indemnity Claims
In the event a veteran passes away, their surviving family members may be entitled to benefits from the VA. Most commonly, this would be the Veteran’s surviving spouse. In order to qualify for DIC benefits, the surviving spouse must show that the Veteran died from a condition or illness related to the veteran’s military service. In some cases, veterans may have already been service connected for the condition that caused their death. In other cases, the surviving spouse is required to prove that the cause of death, if not already service-connected, was due to the veteran’s service.
Even veterans who aren’t rated 100-percent disabled may be eligible to be paid at the 100-percent monetary rate. VA awards individual unemployability, often referred to as total disability for individual unemployability (TDIU), when a veteran’s service connected conditions prohibit him or her from maintaining gainful employment. This benefit is separate from Social Security Disability Income.
Military Sexual Trauma
Military sexual assaults occur with both men and women and often go unreported. Many Veterans believe they do not qualify for Veterans’ benefits for military sexual trauma if they did not report the assault when it happened, but that is not true. There is no time limit for a Veteran to file a claim for a military sexual trauma, even if it is decades later.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), also referred to as posttraumatic stress or posttraumatic stress syndrome, is caused by experiencing a traumatic event. Even though the event has passed, many people continue to experience symptoms for months or even years afterward.
Once VA grants service connection for a disability, they then assign a rating based on the severity of the condition. The rating assigned correlates with a monetary amount to be paid monthly. In most cases, the veteran is compensated retroactively back to the effective date of the claim. This means that VA must pay the monthly amount for the disability for each month the claim was open, usually awarded in a lump sum, in addition to the monthly benefits going forward.
Veterans who were injured while in the military, or who aggravated those injuries while in the military, may be eligible for disability compensation. In some cases, compensation claims injuries are immediately obvious, such as when a service member is physically injured while on active duty. Other times, veterans don’t experience symptoms until many years after service, such as in the form of a mental health condition or cancer due to exposure of hazardous materials like Agent Orange, Burn Pits, or Asbestos.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
If a veteran sustains a head injury or full body injury during their military service, there may be longstanding effects known as residuals of a traumatic brain injury. Many veterans are unaware that they’ve even sustained a TBI because they didn’t lose consciousness during the event. Anything from a mild concussion to being thrown in an explosion may constitute a TBI.