A lot of veterans who I talk to are aware that the VA will pay them a compensation rate equal to the 100% rating, even if their overall rating is less than 100%, if they can’t work due solely to service-connected disabilities. Of course, to be eligible for this special benefit, called total disability based on individual unemployability, the veteran must first meet a minimum rating requirement. He or she must have either one disability that is rated 60% or higher. Alternatively, he or she must have a combined rating of at least 70%, with at least one disability rated at least 40%. If the veteran meets either one of these minimum requirements, and is unable to work due to service-connected disabilities, he or she should be getting compensated at an amount equal to the 100% rating.
Now, by requiring the veterans have a minimum rating to be eligible for the unemployability benefit, it would seem like some veterans might get left out. For instance, take a veteran who has a back condition that is 40% disabling, but no other service-connected conditions, who can’t work because of his back condition. Is he out of luck?
The answer is NO. VA has crafted a special exception to the general rule. Where a veteran can’t work because of service-connected disabilities but doesn’t meet the minimum rating requirement, he can request an “extraschedular” 100% rating. The regional office will then forward the case to the office of the Director of the Compensation and Pension service, who will make a decision on whether the veteran is entitled to a 100% rating. In some cases, VA may overlook even considering an extraschedular 100% unless the veteran specifically requests it, so it is important that veterans are aware that it is out there.