Understanding Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability 

October 4, 2023 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Understanding Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability 

During the course of your military service, you may have been exposed to hazardous chemicals, hurt by defective equipment, wounded in combat, or experienced other harm that has resulted in severe illness or injury, or exacerbated an existing health condition. For some veterans, these illnesses or injuries can become partially or totally disabling. As you explore your disability benefits, one option is Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) if your mental or physical injuries have prevented you from holding gainful employment.  

Given the complexity of the disability benefits system, veterans are most effectively supported with the expert assistance of a veterans disability lawyer. At Dolman Law Group, our team of experienced veterans disability attorneys can offer guidance on whether seeking TDIU or 100% disability is more appropriate for your specific situation, guide you through the process of filing a veterans disability claim, and protect your rights. We offer no-obligation, free consultations to veterans interested in understanding their disability benefit options. You can schedule a meeting by calling us at (866) 481-5347 or using our online contact form.

What is Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability?

TDIU is a type of benefit available in a veterans disability claim. Former service members can receive the same level of compensation as a 100% disability rating would offer. This designation acknowledges that veterans may have sustained serious injuries or developed health conditions that are not completely disabling, yet still significantly impact their ability to secure and keep meaningful employment. If the status of your injuries or illness changes and you become employable, your TDIU benefits can be revoked. 

In order to qualify for Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability, the following must be true:

  • You received an other-than-dishonorable discharge from the military
  • You are suffering from a mental or physical illness or injury that resulted from your military service, or a pre-existing health condition that was made worse because of your service
  • Your service-related disability either meets schedular requirements or is approved for benefits under extraschedular standards
  • Your disability has prevented you from getting or maintaining substantially gainful employment

The Difference Between Schedular and Extraschedular TDIU

The majority of veterans who receive disability benefits are approved under schedular requirements, which refer to the typical standards used to evaluate the severity and impact of a veteran’s disability. To be approved for schedular TDIU, your service-related disability must have a rating of at least 60%, or you must have multiple service-related disabilities with a combined disability rating of at least 70% and at least one of those disabilities must be rated at 40% or more.

In exceptional circumstances, a veteran may be unable to acquire or maintain substantially gainful employment, but fail to meet the schedular requirements for disability ratings.  At this point, they would likely need to pursue extraschedular TDIU benefits. As of 2018, extraschedular evaluations can only be conducted based on one disability, not the combination of multiple disabilities.

To qualify, the veteran must be able to provide sufficient evidence that their disability has interfered with their ability to obtain or sustain substantially gainful employment in such a way that using schedular standards to evaluate their case presents an incomplete or inaccurate picture of the true scope of their limitations. This is often complicated and requires extensive documentation. 

Working While Receiving Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability

Contrary to what the label of “unemployability” suggests, if you are receiving TDIU, you may be able to work under certain circumstances. To maintain eligibility for the TDIU benefit, you can not out-earn the income cap, which is the federal poverty level for an individual. Alternatively, you must show that your job is considered marginal. Generally speaking, marginal work is characterized by low wages, limited responsibilities, and fewer hours. 

In the context of disabled veterans seeking employment, it can also apply to jobs that they otherwise would not be able to have unless significant accommodations were made for their disability. This is more than installing a wheelchair ramp outside an office building. The disability accommodations would need to be above and beyond the norm, such as allowing a much slower work pace or providing frequent breaks.  

In many cases, veterans who perform marginal jobs do so in protected work environments, such as their family business. Disabled veterans who work in roles often held by elderly or disabled people, could also be considered to be marginally employed. While these stipulations may seem strict, the point of Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability is to offer considerable financial support to those who are unable to hold typical jobs. Disabled veterans may also be eligible for 100% disability benefits instead if work requirements are a concern.

Distinguishing Unemployability Benefits From a 100 Percent Disability Rating

Total Disability due to Individual Unemployability benefits and benefits for a 100% disability rating have the same rate of compensation, which is $3,621.95 per month as of 2022. However, the qualifications and restrictions differ between TDIU and 100% disability benefits. To be eligible for a 100% disability rating means that your service-related injuries or illness is considered total and permanent

On the other hand, unemployability benefits have lower requirements for disability ratings, with a general threshold of 60 or 70%. In terms of what a 100% disability designation can offer, there are no employment restrictions for veterans who are receiving benefits based on their 100% disability rating, the status is protected, and there are often other types of benefits available. 

Veterans who believe they are eligible for a 100% disability rating but still want to work a competitive job may choose to seek this status instead of applying for TDIU benefits. Applying for 100% disability alleviates the work restrictions imposed by TDIU for disabled veterans, but it is wise to talk through the implications of both paths with a seasoned veterans disability lawyer first.

Why You Should Choose Dolman Law Group to Manage Your Veterans Disability Claim

At Dolman Law Group, you can depend on our highly skilled veterans disability lawyers to be by your side for every step as you seek the disability benefits you are entitled to receive. For example, a time-consuming and stressful part of the veterans disability claims process is evidence gathering, which requires the meticulous and experienced hand of a personal injury lawyer. 

You may need statements from employers, co-workers, family, or friends to substantiate the circumstances and impact of your injuries or illness, as well as years of medical records, bills, and other documentation. Our team has the resources to obtain, analyze, and consolidate key evidence into a compelling case for compensation. As your veterans disability lawyers, we will give your disability benefits claim the effort and attention it deserves.

Dolman Law Group has an extensive history of successful outcomes, which we credit to our years of experience as advocates and prioritization of our clients. Veterans trust our team to represent them, as demonstrated by our recent work with Camp Lejeune lawsuits. You can rely on our personal injury attorneys to be communicative, act with integrity, and effectively secure the benefits you need.

Contact Dolman Law Group For Help With Your Veterans Disability Claim 

When evaluating your veterans disability claim, the VA is supposed to thoroughly examine your disability in the context of your education, available employment opportunities, and other elements. Unfortunately, the system is overwhelmed with claims, which presents the opportunity for error. Our team at Dolman Law Group can help you navigate the process of securing the benefits you are entitled to receive.

The personal injury attorneys of Dolman Law Group respect your service and are dedicated to getting you the financial support you need as you adjust to life after military service. We will work tirelessly to ensure that your disability rating is assessed accurately, prove that it is connected to your military service, and demonstrate the ways in which it has impeded your ability to work or even function.

If you believe you have been wrongfully denied your TDIU benefits or 100% disability rating, need support in filing a veterans disability claim, or have questions about securing retroactive TDIU benefits, we can offer you a legal perspective and guide you through the next steps. Reach out to our team at (866) 481-5347 or use our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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