Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU)
The Veterans Law Group focuses on representing disabled veterans who are unable to work due to one or more service-connected disabilities.
A veteran is entitled to a 100% disability rating if he can establish that his service-connected disability[ies] preclude him from obtaining gainful employment. In VA law, such claims frequently go by the abbreviation “TDIU”, referring to a Total Disability rating based upon Individual Unemployability. It is a common misunderstanding that a veteran can only qualify for a TDIU rating if he meets certain percentage disability requirements: namely, a single service-connected disability rating of 60%, or a combined service-connected disability rating of 70%. Unfortunately, through many of its notices to veterans, the VA is largely responsible for this misunderstanding. The truth is that a veteran can qualify for a TDIU rating any time one or more of his service-connected disability[ies] prevents him from obtaining employment, regardless of the percentage of the disability rating.
Veterans are often denied TDIU claims because the VA believes that the veteran is capable of so-called “sedentary work.” But the VA is often wrong. For one thing, the VA cannot simply speculate that a disabled veteran is physically capable of performing sedentary work without some medical evidence to justify this conclusion.
In addition, “sedentary work” has a very specific legal meaning. Both the Department of Labor and the Social Security Administration define sedentary work as follows:
Sedentary work involves lifting no more than 10 pounds at a time and occasionally lifting or carrying articles like docket files, ledgers, and small tools. Although a sedentary job is defined as one which involves sitting, a certain amount of walking and standing is often necessary in carrying out job duties. Jobs are sedentary if walking and standing are required occasionally and other sedentary criteria are met.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a).
Through its rulings, the Social Security Administration has further refined this definition to mean employment generally requiring six hours of sitting in a typical eight-hour workday:
In some disability claims, the medical facts lead to an assessment of [residual functional capacity] which is compatible with the performance of either sedentary or light work except that the person must alternate periods of sitting and standing. The individual may be able to sit for a time, but must then get up and stand or walk for a while before returning to sitting. Such an individual is not functionally capable of doing either the prolonged sitting contemplated in the definition of sedentary work (and for the relatively few light jobs which are performed primarily in a seated position) or the prolonged standing or walking contemplated for most light work. (Persons who can adjust to any need to vary sitting and standing by doing so at breaks, lunch periods, etc., would still be able to perform a defined range of work.).
Therefore, if a veteran’s disability[ies] precludes him from sitting for prolonged periods, then he is not capable of engaging in sedentary employment.
Social Security Disability Awards
It is common for disabled veterans to be awarded Social Security Disability benefits before receiving their entitled VA benefits. To prove TDIU claims, social security awards can be very helpful if the social security award covers the same disability[ies] involved in the TDIU claim.