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social-security-disability-ssdi-and-tdiu-for-veterans

What is the connection between Social Security disability (SSDI) and TDIU for veterans?

 

We know that veterans joined the military because they wanted to serve their country, not because they wanted to navigate bureaucratic mazes to claim benefits to which they are entitled. Trying to figure out both Social Security and VA benefits at the same time can be particularly daunting.

 

Let’s simplify things a bit. Yes, a veteran can receive both VA service-connected disability benefits and Social Security benefits. However, it is important to note that receipt of one does not guarantee receipt of the other and a veteran generally cannot receive both a VA pension (different from disability benefits) and Social Security at the same time. VA pension differs from VA service connected disability by whether the disability was caused or aggravated by military service. VA pension was designed to help veterans that have a non-service connected disability and are struggling financially because of the disability.

 

It’s important to understand that sometimes a veteran may have received a Social Security disability award that lists multiple grounds, for example, PTSD and a back injury. When Social Security makes those awards, they are not factoring any service-connected factors that the VA would look at to determine TDIU. In this situation, sometimes the VA will deny TDIU to a veteran in this example because the VA shows that only the PTSD is service-connected, but the back injury is not. That doesn’t necessarily end the issue, however. If you can present evidence to the VA that the veteran is unemployable solely because of service-connected reasons (for example, maybe the veteran was having violent outbursts at work as a result of their PTSD, but could have worked through the back injury issue), the VA may then approve TDIU.

 

If you have been denied TDIU because of an apparent conflict between a Social Security award and a VA TDIU claim, you owe it to yourself to get another opinion on whether you may be eligible.

 

How to get Social Security Earnings records for a TDIU Claim

 

After veterans are discharged from active duty it sometimes takes awhile to reintegrate into civilian life and a suitable civilian job. Bumps in the road are expected, of course, but sometimes it seems impossible to maintain steady work, sometimes because of symptoms from service-connected disabilities interfering with expected work responsibilities. One example are individuals that suffer from PTSD, who miss too many days of work because of anxiety attacks or depression.

 

At a certain point, it may be necessary to look into whether a veteran is eligible for TDIU (total disability individual unemployability) benefits. This is not to say that the veteran will give up trying to work, but acknowledging that perhaps he or she isn’t able to maintain substantially gainful employment through no fault of their own, and needs to look into accessing disability benefits that were part of the deal when they signed up for the military.

 

One of the eligibility requirements for TDIU is a showing that the veteran cannot sustain substantially gainful employment. One of the most direct means of showing this to the VA is by producing income records for the past several years showing the veteran’s income during relevant years.

 

Getting a printout of Social Security earnings records is a straightforward process. The form that you need to file with the Social Security Administration office is the SS-3288 Consent to Release Information form. This can be accessed at www.ssa.gov or by visiting a Social Security office.  Request and review these records to see the real picture of the veteran’s income over the years since discharge (you might be surprised) and then compare them against the annual poverty level numbers (available from the U.S. Department of the Census).

 

Get this earning record before you complete the VA Form 21-8940 which is the TDIU application.

 

Do you need help determining whether you or your veteran spouse might be eligible for TDIU benefits? Veterans Law Group is ready to help you, just as it has for thousands of other veteran families. Fill out this questionnaire and submit to our office for evaluation. We will review your request for a consultation and contact you as soon as possible. Our consultations are free of charge.

the-va-appeals-process-a-step-by-step-explanation

The process for appealing a denied veteran’s disability claim is lengthy and can be confusing for many people. However, this article will provide step by step explanation to the appeals process.
The first step after receiving a denial of benefits is to make a formal application to VA Form 9. The second step, detailed in the next article, explains how to navigate the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Hiring an experienced disability claims attorney to help you through the process is your best chance of reversing the decision and getting the benefits you deserve.

 

Step 1: Form 9 Appeal

Some estimate that there are over 400,000 VA disability claims currently awaiting a decision. After you have applied for benefits with a formal claim, established an effective date for your claim, and your claim is denied, the first step in appealing the decision is to file a Notice of Disagreement with the Rating Decision given to you by the government. Once the VA receives your Notice of Disagreement, the regional office in your area will review the case and create a Statement of the Case for your claim.

The first draft of the Statement of the Case then goes to a higher level of review, known as the DRO. The DRO reviews all of the evidence in the file and then publishes a final Statement of the Case with their decision. The Statement of the Case will either grant or deny your benefits If granted, you still need to make sure that the effective date is correct and that the VA gives you the proper rating. If your claim is still denied, the next step is filing another Notice of Disagreement with the VA to keep your case alive. Within 60 days of receiving your denial of benefits through the Statement of the Case, you must file a Form 9 application with the VA. If the 60 days pass without the filing, your claim is dead.

 

What is a Form 9?

A Form 9 is also known as a Substantive Appeal Form, and it serves as the formal appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals for disability benefits claims. This form escalates the claim denial from the regional level to the national level of appeal. The statute of limitations for filing is 60 days with the single exception for simultaneously contested claims.

Where two people are fighting over the same disability benefit, where one person will benefit from the decision and the other will lose, the statute of limitations is reduced to only 30 days to file a Form 9. An experienced disability claims attorney understands the deadlines and exceptions to the appeals process and can ensure that all of the proper paperwork is filed in time.

 

Step 2: The Board of Veterans’ Appeals

At this point in the appeals process, your claim has been denied at the regional level and you have filed the Form 9 within 60 days of that decision. The next step in the appeals process is taking your case to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. You have two options at this time, either to request a hearing with a judge or waive the hearing for a Board of Veterans’ Appeals review. If you request a hearing, you will go before a judge to hear your case. The judge will listen to the evidence and render a decision. If you choose to waive the hearing, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals will review the evidence as presented in the case file and Form 9 application.

Once you have made a decision and submitted all relevant evidence for the case to the Board, an administrative law judge is assigned to review the claim. The judge has three options for rendering a decision on your claim. The first is to grant your claim, giving you the benefits requested in the appeal. The second option is to deny your claim, siding with the VA in denying benefits. The third option is to remand your claim to the lower level for continued review.

 

Step 3: Appeal to the US Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims

If the administrative law judge denies the claim, you have options. The first is to ask the judge to vacate the decision. The next is to file a motion to reconsider, and the last option is to further appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims (CVAC). If you choose to continue to appeal, the motion must be filed with the CVAC within 120 days of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals decision.

It is important to note that the CVAC is a judicial review court, which means that no new evidence can be submitted to this hearing. The CVAC’s job is to review the judicial findings of the administrative law judge and determine whether there was an error in law made at the lower levels of your case. The CVAC will then either affirm the Board’s decision, vacate the decision, remand the case back to the administrative law judge, or reverse the denial of claims.

 

Contact a Disability Claims Attorney

If you have questions about a VA benefits claim, one of our experienced attorneys will be able to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us today.

do-non-service-connected-disabilities-affect-tdiu

 

It may be years since you left military service and as time passes, sometimes it can be hard to know what parts of your life are still affected by your sacrifices of service, and which ones are just part of civilian life. This is a very important question when it comes to evaluating your eligibility for veterans disability benefits, especially when you both have service-connected disabilities and non-service-connected ones.

Does having a non-service-connected disability preclude you from getting rated TDIU (Total Disability Individual Unemployability)? No, but it doesn’t get factored into the decision-making process. Let me explain.

TDIU is a determination of 100% disability through evaluation of certain disability ratings that are either individually or collectively above certain levels, and medical evidence of unemployability. In that determination process, the existence or degree of nonservice-connected disabilities or previous unemployability status will be disregarded. However, if the percentages referred to in the rules for the service-connected disability or disabilities are met and in the judgment of the rating agency such service-connected disabilities render the veteran unemployable, then the TDIU will be approved.

Don’t just sit and wonder whether your disabilities qualify you for TDIU? Contact Veterans Law Group whose staff spends all their time helping veterans just like you, helping you and your family with legal assistance in navigating the VA disability benefits process.

To get started, simply fill out this questionnaire and submit to our office for evaluation. We will review your request for a consultation and contact you as soon as possible. Our consultations are free of charge.

what-do-disability-percentage-ratings-mean-in-connection-with-tdiu

 

Getting injured while serving your country usually happens quickly, but recovery and adjustment to any resulting disability is slow and painful at best. Trying to navigate the procedures for obtaining disability pay afterwards may just seem like one final hill too many. Maybe we can simplify things a bit.

Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) is a theory for getting a 100% disability rating if certain conditions are met. The first of those conditions is a specified percentage of disability rating, a percentage that can either be met directly with one service-connected disability with a 60% or more disability rating, or a combination of disability ratings that equal 70% or more. The math is a little complicated because sometimes you can add up lower percentage disability ratings into a single, higher rating for purposes of TDIU analysis. Here’s how the math works.

The law identifies five scenarios where multiple disabilities will be considered as one disability for TDIU purposes, either for one 60% disability or one 40% disability.

 

1 – Where there are multiple disabilities of one or both upper or lower extremities, they will be combined into a single disability rating. An example of this would be a left leg rated at 40% disability and left knee rated at 30% disability. These two disabilities should be combined for a single disability rating of 70% for purposes of TDIU.

 

2 – Where there are disabilities resulting from common etiology (common cause) or a single accident. For example, if a veteran has diabetes mellitus rated at 20% and peripheral neuropathy of left and right lower extremities associated with diabetes rated at 20% each, and all three disabilities have a common etiology of agent orange exposure, they must be combined into a single disability of 60% for purposes of TDIU evaluation.

 

3 – Where the disabilities affect a single body system, e.g. orthopedic, digestive, respiratory, cardiovascular-renal, neuropsychiatric. For example, nonunion of right tibia rated at 40% disability and right ankle ankylosis rated at 20% disability should be combined into a single disability of 60% for TDIU purposes.

 

4 – Where there are multiple injuries in action. Although the regulation does not define the term “action,” it likely means combat or combat-related action. For example, residuals of shell fragment wound to the right buttock for muscle injury rated at 20% disability, residuals of shell fragment wound to the left buttock rated at 20%, and residuals shell fragment gunshot wound of the left auxiliary area at 20% disability, must be combined into a single disability of 60 percent disability, for TDIU purposes.

 

5 – Where there are multiple disabilities incurred as a result of being a prisoner of war. Under this final provision, all service-connected disabilities at either 60% or 40% in combination meet the first requirement for TDIU.

 

Do you think you might be eligible for TDIU? Let Veterans Law Group help you wade through the process of figuring out if you are. VLG works extensively with veterans and their families, providing legal assistance in navigating the VA disability benefits process and helping you obtain the maximum benefits you may be entitled to receive.

To get started, simply fill out this questionnaire and submit to our office for evaluation. We will review your request for a consultation and contact you as soon as possible. Our consultations are free of charge.

im-working-part-time-can-i-still-qualify-for-tdiu

 

Veterans are hard-working and try to overcome every obstacle; it’s just part of the personality of those who volunteered to serve their country in the military. Over and over again we find that even veterans with various disabilities try their best to hold down a solid job after leaving the service, even if it’s only part-time. Part-time work doesn’t always pay the bills, though, so it’s always a good idea to see if you are getting all of the disability benefits you may be entitled to receive from the VA.

A veteran generally can still work when receiving VA disability payments for less than a 100% disability rating. However, typically in order to receive individual unemployability or a 100 percent schedule rating for certain disabilities, a veteran cannot work full time or make over a certain amount of money per year (generally anything above the poverty line). This depends on each individual case.

Working part-time, though, is sometimes more a result of your disabilities than you originally realized. Look back at your work history for the years since your separation from the military. Have you ever been able to hold down a full-time job? Is the reason you are working part-time a result of ongoing symptoms of your physical or mental disability interfering with your employment? Have you been sick, anxious, depressed, resulting in missed days at work and eventual termination from job after job? Maybe your situation is worth a closer look.

Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) is a theory for getting a 100% disability rating if certain conditions are met. The most straightforward method is by showing 1) you have one service-connected disability with a 60% or more disability rating, or have two or more service-connected disabilities with a combined rating of 70% or more, and 2) there is medical evidence of unemployability. If you satisfy these two conditions, then you will be entitled to a 100% disability rating.

If you have questions about your possible eligibility for TDIU or if you are not able to work due to a disability incurred in service, please reach out to us at Veterans Law Group. Our one and only job is to provide legal help for veterans and their families in their quest for VA disability benefits.

To get started, simply fill out this questionnaire and submit to our office for evaluation. We will review your request for a consultation and contact you as soon as possible. Our consultations are free of charge.

what-is-total-disability-individual-unemployability-tdiu-and-am-i-eligible

 

We know how hard veterans work to readjust to the civilian work after their tours of duty, applying the same commitment and force of will that kept them going during difficult deployments and challenging assignments. Sometimes, though, struggling past service-connected disabilities to perform a civilian job doesn’t seem to be working. It’s possible that even less than total disability seems to be resulting in employment difficulties. It’s worth finding out whether the veteran is eligible for a 100% disability rating under a theory of Total Disability Individual Unemployability (also known as “TDIU”).

The VA generally refers to a claim as a TDIU claim when two conditions are met: 1) the veteran has one service-connected disability with a 60% or more disability rating, or has two or more service-connected disabilities with a combined rating of 70% or more, and 2) there is medical evidence of unemployability (more about that below). If the veteran satisfies these two conditions, then he will be entitled to be paid at the 100% disability rate, even though he does not satisfy that 100% disability rating under the schedule. See 38 C.F.R.  § 4.16(a).

A second method of reaching the same TDIU result is called an extra-schedular rating. An extra-schedular rating applies to veterans who are unemployable due to their service-connected disability(ies), but whose disability(ies) does not meet the percentage requirements under § 4.16(a). See 38 C.F.R. § 4.16(b.)

A veteran can be rated 100% disabled under both a TDIU or extra-schedular theory. See Bowling v. Principi, 15 Vet.App. 1, 5-9 (2001).


Medical evidence of unemployability refers to medical findings of conditions or symptoms that would tend to interfere with the maintenance of regular, full-time employment. Examples could be ongoing panic attacks, social anxiety, frequent emotional outbursts as a result of PTSD, etc.
If you think you might be eligible for TDIU and want to appeal your VA disability decision, Veterans Law Group would love to talk with you. Highly respected in their field, VLG has more than twenty years of experience providing legal help for veterans and their families in their quest for benefits. We can help you obtain additional medical opinion evidence to get you the benefits you deserve.


To get started, simply fill out this questionnaire and submit to our office for evaluation. We will review your request for a consultation and contact you as soon as possible. Our consultations are free of charge and require nothing from you. With so much on the line, why not explore your legal options?

what-to-consider-when-choosing-a-disability-claims-attorney

 

Many attorneys practice disability law, but to give your claim the best chance of succeeding it is important to work with an attorney who has experience practicing veterans disability law.

 

A good veterans disability attorney will have the legal knowledge and experience to go toe to toe with the VA to get you the compensation you deserve. They will be able to help you gather evidence that supports your claim, understand the stress you are dealing with and will be there to guide you through your case, keeping you up to date on your what is happening.

Questions to Ask Potential VA Disability Attorneys

Figuring out where to turn to get help challenging the VA can be a challenge. It’s important to have an attorney who has experience dealing in VA matters and who will ardently represent your interests. You can use the following questions to help you make choose a lawyer for your VA disability claim:

 

 

Legal Guidance and Transparency

Beyond helping you recover damages for your injury, an experienced VA disability attorney also understands that you will have questions about the legal process and are hungry for information about your case.

 

A good attorney will be empathetic to the challenges you are facing and will have the human experience, skills, and patience necessary to help you understand your case.

 

Too many people feel as though they are just another number on their lawyer’s desk. At our firm, we believe that your experience with our team is just as important as the results we obtain for you.

 

You should feel confident about your claim. You should never feel in the dark about what is happening. We do our best to keep you informed about the various phases of litigation and encourage you to call us with questions at any point from start to finish.

The Ability to Help You Get an Independent Medical exam

Getting the medical opinion of a doctor that is not on the VA’s payroll is on one of the most beneficial things you can do to support your case.

 

Because of how advantageous a supporting medical examination can be to your case, organizing meeting between you and a medical professional outside of the VA’s operating circle should be a priority for whatever attorney or law firm you end up choosing to represent you.

 

The VA has many resources to help them build a case against you. Regardless if you are dealing with a physical disability or a mental impairment, the opinion of an experienced medical professional will go a long way in helping you tip the scales in your favor.

Work with an Experienced Veterans Disability Attorney

If you are struggling with a VA disability appeal, we would like to help. Our attorneys have the legal knowledge and experience to help you achieve the legal outcome. Many of us are veterans and understand the strain you are going through.

 

If you would like more information about how the Veterans Law Group and how we can help your case, call us today to set a free consultation.

RAMP: An Option for Veterans

RAMP: What is it and it is right for me?

The Department of Veterans Affairs is notorious for its red tape. Some injured veterans hoping for disability benefits spend months building a thorough application only to find their claim denied or underrated. In order to appeal the decision, veterans need to bring their claim to either a local Decision Review Officer or to the Board of Veterans Appeals. Unfortunately, either option can result in months and even years of waiting for a response. During this time, many struggle to earn a living and put food on the table for their families. (more…)


Veteran Personality Disorder

Veteran Diagnosed With Personality Disorder

 

Military service demands certain sacrifices, but few realize just how demanding active duty can be on a person’s mental state. While much is made about post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, unfortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs does not recognize personality disorders as a disability that can be compensated by the VA. Viewed instead as genetic or developmental disorders, personality disorders can make it difficult for veterans to get the benefits they need. However, if you have been diagnosed with a personality disorder, you may still be eligible for benefits for disabilities connected to your disorder. (more…)

Disability Benefits for Spine Conditions

Most people experience back pain at some point in their lifetime. Unfortunately, spinal injuries are all too common for veterans. Military lifestyle, deployment and training often lead to spine conditions that can last a lifetime. These conditions can be debilitating, seriously threatening to your ability to hold down a job or partake in hobbies you once enjoyed. (more…)