In general, neither the 100% disability rating nor a total disability rating based on individual unemployability (TDIU), or more commonly known as unemployability, is better than the other. The monthly compensation amount for unemployability is equivalent to a 100% disability rating. However, depending on a veteran’s circumstances, one option might be more beneficial to pursue.
What is the Difference Between Unemployability and a 100% Disability Rating?
The monthly compensation amount for unemployability is equal to that of a 100% disability rating. However, the qualifying criteria for unemployability is different than the requirements for a 100% disability rating.
An unemployability rating does not solely rely on the rating of a specific condition to grant benefits, it takes into account a veteran’s ability to work. Unemployability allows a veteran who is unable to work, to receive compensation at the 100% level even though their service-connected condition does not meet the 100% rating criteria. On the other hand, with a 100% disability rating, there are not the same restrictions on work activity as with unemployability. Therefore, if a veteran is rated 100% for their service-connected disability, and they are able to work, then they may do so.
100% Disability Rating Qualifying Criteria
There are two ways a veteran may be assigned a 100% disability rating:
- The veteran must have one service-connected condition that meets the 100% rating criteria specified for that condition; or
- The veteran must have multiple service-connected disabilities whose individual disability ratings combine to 100%.
Unemployability Qualifying Criteria
For veterans who do not have a 100% disability rating, but are disabled to the point that they are unable to obtain and maintain employment, unemployability provides another option to receive compensation.
To qualify for unemployability, a veteran must be unable to maintain substantially gainful employment as a result of their service-connected disability. Substantially gainful employment is employment that: (1) is not marginal, and (2) earns an annual salary that is above the federal poverty level. Additionally, a veteran must have:
- One service-connected disability ratable at 60% or more; or
- Two or more service-connected disabilities, with at least one disability ratable at 40% or more, with a combined rating of 70% or more.
If a veteran does not meet the rating requirements above, the veteran may qualify for extraschedular unemployability.
Why Would Someone Want a 100% Rating Versus Unemployability?
The biggest difference between unemployability and a 100% disability rating comes down to the work restriction imposed by unemployability. There is a myth that a veteran cannot hold any employment while receiving unemployability, and while that is not the case, there are restrictions on what employment a veteran can hold.
The VA may grant unemployability when a veteran is unable to secure or maintain a substantially gainful occupation due to their service-connected disabilities. The courts have determined that “substantially gainful occupation” means employment where a veteran earns more than what the current federal poverty level is for an individual. Right now, the current poverty level is around $12,000. This means that an employed veteran who earns $12,000 or less per year can still be eligible for unemployability even though they are employed.
There are no restrictions on a veteran’s ability to work with a 100% disability rating.
However, with unemployability, the VA can and will revoke unemployability if a veteran becomes employable again.
Can the VA Change a 100% Disability Rating or Unemployability?
Both a 100% disability rating and unemployability have the potential to be determined permanent and total.
To assign a permanent 100% rating the VA must classify your condition as permanent and total (P&T). The VA classifies disabilities as P&T when it is believed that there is little to no chance of recovering or improving your condition. P&T ratings are protected from being reduced and may entitle you or your family to additional VA benefits. The VA can classify someone as P&T whether their benefits are via a schedular rating or unemployability.
If you need assistance with VA disability claim, we are here to help. Call Bosley & Bratch at (800) 953-6224 or complete the form below.