Posted byBerry LawonSeptember 5, 2022inTDIU
Certain Veterans may have such debilitating conditions or health problems that they require something called total disability based on individual unemployability, or TDIU. TDIU is a special disability benefit that lets Veterans be compensated at a 100% disability rating even if their combined disability rating doesn’t technically reach 100%.
TDIU can be very useful for Veterans who can’t maintain substantially gainful employment even if they only suffer from one condition or if their health problems are unique compared to typical symptom manifestations.
To make matters more complicated, TDIU is also available as something called “extra schedular TDIU.” This kind of TDIU impacts the benefits a Veteran may receive for their health condition.
Not sure what extra schedular TDIU is or whether it applies to your benefits? Read on.
As mentioned above, TDIU is a special disability benefit that Veterans can apply for and receive if they can’t maintain substantially gainful employment. TDIU is intended for Veterans who have one or more conditions that would normally not add up to a disability rating of 100% but whose symptoms still prevent them from working. Thus, those Veterans need compensation equal to that of a 100% disability rating.
This can add up to a significant financial difference. For instance, as of the 2022 VA disability benefits compensation range, there’s a $1200 gap in benefits between a 90% disability rating and a 100% disability rating.
Normally, Veterans can only qualify for TDIU under two different circumstances:
- They have at least one service-connected disability with a rating of at least 60%, or
- They have two or more service-connected disabilities that combine into a rating of 70%, with one of the two disabilities being rated at 40% or more.
Under these circumstances, a Veteran may receive total disability benefits even if they don’t reach the 100% benchmark normally needed.
Extra Schedular Ratings Explained
Extra schedular ratings for the VA disability system are any ratings that are higher than they would normally be for that condition. These higher extra schedular ratings are based on a Veteran’s unique symptoms, how those symptoms affect a Veteran’s life or livelihood, and more.
For example, if a Veteran feels that the typical rating schedule doesn’t reflect the severity of their condition or their difficulty in maintaining employment, they can apply for an extra schedular rating instead.
Extra schedular ratings, however, do have specific criteria that Veterans must meet before receiving extra schedular benefits. These criteria are:
- An unusual or exceptional disability. This usually includes related factors such as interference with employment.
- Frequent hospitalization that may impact a Veteran’s ability to maintain a job or make regular disability benefits impractical or insufficient.
Put another way; extra schedular ratings exist for Veterans whose health conditions are unusual or severe enough that regular disability ratings aren’t sufficient.
What Is Extra Schedular TDIU?
Extra schedular TDIU, therefore, is total disability based on individual unemployability through an extra schedular rating. A Veteran’s health conditions must prevent them from remaining employed to receive extra schedular TDIU.
Extra schedular TDIU ratings are established under 38 CRF 4.16(b) and are intended specifically for Veterans who can’t secure and maintain substantially gainful employment — even if they don’t meet the rating percentages for regular TDIU.
In a nutshell, extra schedular TDIU means that a Veteran can apply for and receive 100% total disability compensation each month without:
- Having a disability rating of 100%
- Meeting the two standard TDIU qualification criteria (i.e., at least one service-connected disability with a rating of at least 60% or two or more service-connected disabilities with a combined rating of 70%)
Under extra schedular TDIU, a Veteran’s service-connected conditions are severe enough that they prevent the Veteran from earning enough money for financial security — even if the conditions would normally be rated at low percentages under the normal rating system.
For example, a Veteran may have a standard disability rating of 30% for a back injury. This is awarded to Veterans whose forward flexion of their cervical spines is 15° or less.
However, a Veteran may claim that their back injury is limiting or painful enough that it qualifies for an extra schedular rating. This may entitle them to more disability benefits or compensation than they would receive otherwise.
Who Qualifies for Extra Schedular TDIU Benefits?
Any Veteran who believes their service-connected conditions or injuries preclude them from maintaining gainful employment may qualify for extra schedular TDIU. As with regular TDIU benefits, the Veteran in question must not be able to maintain gainful employment whatsoever.
Generally, extra schedular TDIU benefits are awarded to Veterans who are older and have serious back problems. While back injuries may not always qualify a Veteran for 100% disability compensation, back injuries that prevent older Veterans from working in physically demanding jobs may qualify them for extra schedular TDIU instead.
How To Apply for Extra Schedular TDIU
Applying for extra schedular TDIU involves filing a benefits application with the VA, then making the claim that your service-connected conditions are severe enough that they warrant a 100% disability rating under the extra schedular rating system.
Because extra schedular TDIU is by necessity a unique rating circumstance, Veterans must go through an extra step to receive their benefits.
After receiving an extra schedular TDIU claim, the VA refers the claim to the Director of Compensation Service. The Director then reviews how various factors around the Veteran’s service-connected conditions, educational level, employment history, and more may affect the current situation. It is the Director who makes the final decision about whether the Veteran will receive extra schedular TDIU.
Each extra schedular TDIU application requires a separate investigation and special consideration. Provided that the Veteran in question has enough evidence supporting their claim, it is likely they will receive extra schedular TDIU — especially if they have knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys working for them.
However, it is not guaranteed that a Veteran will receive TDIU under the extra schedular rating system. For the best results, you should contact leading Veterans law attorneys. The right attorneys can help you:
- Gather the evidence you need for your claim to succeed.
- Help you file your benefits claim appropriately.
- Help you through the appeals process if necessary.
- Speak to the Director of Compensation Service and negotiate with them on your behalf.
What Evidence Should You Gather?
To make sure your application for extra schedular TDIU is accepted, you and your attorneys should gather certain important evidence to support your claim. The most important evidence to gather includes:
- Information in your C-file. Your claims file contains all the documentation the VA uses to make a positive or negative determination for your disability benefits claim. Get a copy of this file ASAP, and make sure that it includes all the information related to your service-connected conditions. If any information is missing, you may not get the extra schedular rating you deserve.
- Medical evidence. This can include statements from your healthcare provider indicating that your condition is severe enough to warrant TDIU under the extra schedular rating system.
- Lay evidence. This can include personal testimonies from yourself, people near you, and even other service members who were in the military with you.
Since extra schedular TDIU rating decisions take more time to process, it’s important to gather this evidence as quickly as possible. The sooner you get your documentation together, the faster you can submit your claim — and the sooner you may receive the benefits you deserve for your service to our country.
Can You Receive Both TDIU and Extra Schedular TDIU Benefits?
Sometimes, but not always. Due to the 2001 court decision Bowling v. Principi, a Veteran can technically be rated 100% disabled under both TDIU and extra schedular TDIU. However, this is not very common.
Contact Veterans Law Attorneys Today
Extra schedular TDIU is an important disability benefit for thousands of Veterans across the country. If you believe your negative health conditions qualify you for extra schedular TDIU, you don’t need to file a benefits claim alone. Berry Law is here to help.
As experienced Veterans law attorneys, we are well-equipped to help you get the benefits you need fast. Berry Law can support you in showing that your health condition is more debilitating or severe than it seems, filing a successful benefits claim, and going through the appeals process if necessary. We can also help you get through your interview with the Director of Compensation Service.
You’ve already done enough for this country. Let us pay you back for your service. Contact us today for a free case evaluation and consultation.
VA Individual Unemployability if You Can’t Work | Veterans Affairs
2022 Veterans Disability Compensation Rates | Veterans Affairs
Federal Register: Extra-Schedular Evaluations for Individual Disabilities | Federal Register
38 CFR § 4.16 — Total Disability Ratings for Compensation Based on Unemployability of the Individual | Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute
Bowling v. Principi, 15 Vet. App. 1 (2001) | Caselaw Access Project