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Individual Unemployability

Individual Unemployability is a part of VA's disability compensation program that allows VA to pay certain Veterans disability compensation at the 100% rate, even though VA has not rated their service-connected disabilities at the total level.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • You must be a Veteran
  • You must have at least one service connected disability rated at least at 60%, OR
  • Two or more service connected disabilities at least one disability ratable at 40 percent or more with a combined rating of 70 percent or more.
  • You must be unable to maintain substantially gainful employment as a result of service-connected disabilities (marginal employment, such as odd jobs, is not considered substantial gainful employment for VA purposes).

Evidence Requirements:

  • Evidence of at least one service connected disability AND
  • That the service-connected disability or disabilities are sufficient, without regard to other factors, to prevent performing the mental and/or physical tasks required to get or keep substantially gainful employment AND
  • That one disability is ratable at 60 percent or more, OR
  • If more than one disability exists, one disability is ratable at 40 percent or more with a combined rating of 70 percent or more.

Under exceptional circumstances this benefit may be granted with a lower disability rating than noted above provided the evidence shows the service-connected disability or disabilities present such an exceptional or unusual disability picture, due to such factors as marked interference with employment or frequent periods of hospitalization, that applying the normal disability requirements is impractical.

Example 1

A Veteran has a service-connected heart condition evaluated as 60% disabling. She has been able to work without difficulty until last year, when she began to experience chest pain with any exertion.

Her physician recommended that she retire as soon as possible. She subsequently filed a claim for increased disability compensation. Evidence regarding the Veteran's work history and education were reviewed by the Rating Team. As it confirmed the Veteran was "individually unemployable" due to her service-connected disability, entitlement to compensation at the rate payable to a 100% disabled Veteran was granted.

Example 2

A Veteran served as a medic in Vietnam and stepped on a land mine severing his right leg below the knee. He wears a prosthesis that allows him good mobility.

He had a great deal of difficulty readjusting to civilian life and was recently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Service connection was established for both disabilities. The ratings for these disabilities are 40% and 50%, respectively. The combined disability rating is 70%.

He applied for individual unemployability because he has not been able to maintain gainful employment for many years. His only income during the last two years has come from a neighbor who pays the Veteran to watch his dogs while he's out of town. The evidence established that his service-connected disabilities render him unemployable.

Based on this finding, the Rating Team granted entitlement to compensation at the rate payable to a Veteran rated 100% disable.

How to Apply

For more information on how to apply and for tips on making sure your claim is ready to be processed by VA, visit our How to Apply page.