What Is Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU)?

TDIU pays monthly benefits to veterans who are unable to earn a living because of a service-related disability.
Whitney Vandiver
By Whitney Vandiver 
Published
Edited by Tina Orem

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Veterans who are unable to work because of a service-related disability may qualify for Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. They receive the same benefits as veterans with a 100% disability rating (even if they don’t have that rating)

.

  • To qualify for TDIU, you must be unable to work and have a minimum level of service-related disability rating.

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reviews claims and provides benefits for TDIU.

How much is TDIU?

In 2024, TDIU benefits range from $3,737.85 to $4,433.39

. Monthly compensation might be higher for eligible veterans with multiple children.

Veterans who qualify for TDIU are eligible for the same benefits as someone who has a 100% disability rating with VA disability benefits. The VA adjusts the rates based on the SSA’s annual cost-of-living adjustment

.

Receiving TDIU comes with enhanced eligibility status for VA health care benefits. That isn’t a guarantee that you’ll receive them, but the VA says you are more likely to be approved for them if you receive TDIU.

VA.gov. Eligibility for VA health care. Accessed Nov 20, 2023.
.

How to qualify for TDIU

To qualify for TDIU, a veteran must:

  • Have a service-related disability rating of 60% or higher, or two service-related disabilities: one with a rating off 40% or higher, and a combined disability rating of at least 70%

    .

  • Be unable to work in a job that supports them consistently because of the service-related disability.

🤓Nerdy Tip

If you have one service-related disability, it must have a rating of at least 60%.

If you have two service-related disabilities, at least one must be rated 40% or higher — but together, they must have a combined rating of at least 70%.

The VA assigns the percentage ratings for disabilities.

You meet the unemployed requirement if you are unable to earn enough to support yourself, also known as substantial gainful activity (SGA). Generally, this means you are unable to work consistently and pay for necessities such as food and shelter.

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TDIU qualification examples

Here are several examples of how people might qualify or not qualify for TDIU.

Haley has a service-related disability that affects her shoulder and is rated at 70%. She is a truck driver and struggles to drive for long periods of time. She has had to take more time off recently because of her disability, and it has dropped her income to $1,245 a month.

Haley is approved for TDIU because:

  • Her single disability is rated above 60%.

  • Her disability keeps her from earning more than the SGA limit.

Manuel has a service-related disability that is rated 90% and affects his digestive system. He is a teacher. His disability requires him to use the restroom every hour or so and keeps him from sitting through long meetings or participating in outdoor activities where a restroom isn’t nearby. He currently earns $3,400 a month.

Even though Manuel’s single disability is higher than 60%, the VA doesn’t approve him for TDIU because he is still able to earn more than the monthly income limit. An alternative is for him to speak with his employer about accommodations for certain situations.

Aisha has two service-related disabilities. One affects her neck and is rated 60%, and the other affects her grip strength and is rated 90%. Together they have a disability rating of 70%. She works as a contract architect for a construction company and is only paid for the projects she completes. Because she can only sit for so long and must take frequent breaks to rest her neck and hands, her income has dropped to $1,360 a month.

Aisha is approved for TDIU because:

  • Of her two service-related disabilities, one is rated at least 40%.

  • Her combined rating for her disabilities is at least 70%.

  • Her disabilities are affecting her ability to earn more than the monthly income limit.

Deidra has two service-related disabilities. One affects their lung capacity and is rated at 70%, and the other affects their sinus cavity and is rated 30%. Together they have a disability rating of 50%. They work as wait staff at a cafe and depend on hourly wages plus tips to earn a living. Because they have limited lung capacity, they must go a little slower at work than their colleagues and take breaks if they get out of breath. They also have to limit how long they are in the kitchen because any smoke can bother their lungs and sinuses. Despite not cutting their hours, they are serving fewer tables and working more slowly than other wait staff because of their disabilities. This has affected their tips and dropped their income to $1,480 a month.

Even though Deidra’s income is below the monthly income limit, the VA doesn’t approve them for TDIU because their combined disability rating is below 70%. An alternative is for them to speak with their employer about accommodations for certain situations and apply for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI).

When determining TDIU benefits, the VA doesn’t consider the following information:

  • The applicant’s age

    .

  • How non-service-related disabilities affect the applicant’s ability to keep substantial gainful employment.

  • Reasons (other than the applicant’s service-related disability) the applicant left a job.

TDIU vs. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

The main difference between TDIU and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is that TDIU is for disabled veterans who are unable to work in a job that supports them consistently, and SSDI is for disabled people who are not able to work at all. Although the two programs have the same goal, they have several differences.

TDIU

SSDI

Source

Veterans Affairs

Social Security Administration

Program contribution

Doesn't require the beneficiary to contribute financially to the program.

Requires beneficiaries to have contributed financially to the program.

Disability type

Considers only service-related disabilities that prevent someone from working.

Doesn't restrict disabilities to those related to military service.

Disability rating

Doesn't require someone to have a VA rating of 100%.

Requires someone to be completely disabled (the equivalent of a VA rating of 100%).

Work ability

Only requires that an applicant be unable to work a job that meets the definition of substantial gainful employment.

Requires that an applicant be unable to work any type of job.

Veterans may qualify for both TDIU and SSDI, but the programs are from different federal agencies, which means you’ll have to apply to each program separately if you want to receive benefits for both

.

🤓Nerdy Tip

The SSA expedites veterans’ claims for SSDI benefits. You might need to self-identify as a veteran when you apply for SSDI and provide proof of VA-rated disability.

How to apply for TDIU

To receive TDIU benefits, you’ll apply for VA disability benefits and provide documentation such as medical records to show that you are unable to keep steady employment. You’ll also submit records of your work history and education so the VA understands what work you’ve done in the past and what you’re trained to do.

When filing a disability claim for TDIU, you’ll submit two forms that are unique to these types of benefits:

  • A Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability (VA Form 21-8940).

  • A Request for Employment Information in Connection with Claim for Disability Benefits (VA Form 21-4192).

The first form requires information about your disability and medical treatment, employment history and education

. You’ll need to provide dates that you were in the hospital within the last 12 months, the dates you last worked full-time and became unable to work because of your disability, the highest annual income you earned during your career and the time lost at each job you’ve held during the past five years due to your service-related disability.

Your most recent employer will fill out and submit the second form

VA.gov. About VA Form 21-8940. Accessed Nov 20, 2023.
. They will send it directly to the VA after they’ve filled it out, so you only need to provide them with the form.

3 things to know about TDIU

  1. The forms require a lot of information. Because TDIU requires two additional forms, you’ll have to provide a lot of information about your disability and work history. It might take you a while to collect all of this information, so be prepared to gather everything in advance.

  2. Your most recent employer needs to submit a form. Your employer must fill out the Request for Employment Information in Connection with Claim for Disability Benefits — you can’t do it. The employer’s HR department should know how to handle the form. Once you’ve provided the form, ask for an estimate of when they’ll submit the form to the VA, and ask for an email confirming that they’ve submitted it.

  3. You can also receive additional government assistance. Because VA benefits are separate from SSA benefits and those offered through individual states, such as Medicaid, you can also apply for other assistance programs. However, qualifying for TDIU does not guarantee that you are eligible for other benefit programs.

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