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There are many aspects of service-connected disabilities that aren’t quantifiable to someone who isn’t experiencing them personally. In many cases, an injury that wouldn’t constitute a 100% disability rating in isolation is combined with other service-related trauma in a way that makes it difficult, or even impossible, for a veteran to find and maintain viable employment.

To allow for this situation, the VA offers the Individual Unemployability (IU) program. Eligible veterans are compensated at the total, or 100%, disability rating, even though their existing injuries have been rated at a lower level.

Am I eligible for Individual Unemployability Compensation?

In order to qualify for the program, you must:

  • Be a veteran.
  • Be unable to maintain “substantially gainful employment,” or earn income exceeding the poverty level in the area where you live. Marginal employment, or “odd jobs,” does not typically constitute substantially gainful employment.
  • Meet the percentage criteria for one of the following:
    • Have one service-connected disability rated at 60% or higher.
    • Have two or more service-connected disabilities, with at least one rated 40% or higher, with a combined rating of at least 70%.

Cases are evaluated on an individual basis, and it may be possible to receive compensation even without meeting one of the percentage criteria described above. Special consideration is given when:

  • A veteran is unemployable because of service-connected disabilities, despite not meeting the minimum percentage criteria, or
  • Earning capacity is significantly impaired due to exceptional circumstances related to service-connected disabilities, such as frequent hospitalizations.

Be aware that if you qualify for the program, it may be necessary to fill out an annual employment questionnaire to demonstrate your continued eligibility.

How can I apply?

Veterans can apply for IU by submitting a VA form 21-8940, “Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability,” available here.

If you think you may qualify for IU disability benefits, it may be in your best interests to review your case with a knowledgeable Houston VA benefits attorney. Morgan & Weisbrod have helped many service people navigate the frustrating maze of applications and appeals. For more information, call toll-free: 800-800-6353, or fill out the contact form below.

Morgan & Weisbrod LLP

by Paul B. Burkhalter
Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.


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