What is Individual Unemployability or TDIU?

TDIU (Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability) is also called IU and Unemployability. TDIU is paid to veterans who cannot work at a “substantially gainful” level as a result of one or more service-connected disabilities, but have less than a 100% schedular rating.

The technical legal standard is whether you are “unable to secure or follow a substantially gainful occupation as a result of service-connected disabilities.” If so, you are paid compensation at the 100% level.

How can I qualify for TDIU?

There are two ways to qualify for TDIU.

1. Ratings-based qualification for TDIU

As a general rule, you must have either (a) one service-connected disability of 60% or (b) a combination of ratings totaling 70% with one of the included ratings being at least 40%.

If you meet one of those requirements, and you can show that one of your service-connected disabilities has caused a total inability to work, you can qualify for TDIU.

2. “Extra-schedular” disability

In certain circumstances, the VA will consider awarding TDIU even if you do not meet the rating requirements mentioned above, if your impairments still prevent you from working. This is referred to as “extra-schedular TDIU.”

This is especially useful if you meet the maximum rating for a particular condition, but don’t meet the ratings-based qualifications listed above.

For example, the highest rating for migraines is 50%.  To qualify for the 50% rating, you need “very frequent completely prostrating and prolonged attacks productive of severe economic inadaptability.”

It’s difficult to imagine that anyone could successfully work at any job with that level of impairment due to migraines. This scenario is tailor-made for “extra-schedular” TDIU. If you have migraines that prevent you from working, then you should file for TDIU, even though your rating may be only 50%.

Unfortunately, in the real world, the VA rarely awards extra-schedular TDIU.

This is partially due to the convoluted procedure involved. First, you must convince the Regional Office that your case involves an exceptional or unusual disability situation.

But that’s not enough, because the VA Regional Office doesn’t actually have the authority to award extra-schedular TDIU. Instead, the Regional Office can only refer the claim to the Director of the VA Compensation and Pension Service in Washington, D.C. for a final decision. In essence, you have to prove total disability twice!

Have you applied for TDIU? What problems have you had with the application and approval process? Let us know in the comments.


  1. Jim F

    I’m considering applying for Individual Unemployability, I was rated 50% for migraines and had 2 other issues at 10% for a total of 60%. I applied for the vocational rehab program but my counselor determined that I was unable to work due to my disability and that I couldn’t benefit from the program. I agree that I probably couldn’t hold a job because of the migraines. Will I be eligible for Special Consideration as below?
    Special consideration will be given or veterans when the following criteria is met:

    The veteran is considered unemployable due to a service-connected disability(ies) but fails to meet the minimum percentage standards,
    OR There is evidence of exceptional or unusual circumstances to impairment of earning capacity due to disabilities (for example, interference with employment or frequent periods of hospitalization)

    • This is exactly the type of situation that I believe is appropriate for special consideration. The 50% rating for migraines corresponds to “very frequent completely prostrating and prolonged attacks productive of severe economic in adaptability.” I can’t imagine how anyone could sustain regular employment with migraines that are bad enough and frequent enough to qualify for the 50% rating.

This blog is a public resource for general information. This blog and the materials provided in it have been prepared by Spencer Law Firm for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. No client or other reader should rely on, act on or refrain from acting based on information contained in this website without seeking appropriate legal or other professional advice.