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What is Relevant Evidence in a TDIU Claim?

Posted by Gregory M. Rada | Firm News

Assessing all relevant evidence of record is required to determine TDIU entitlement. Evidence that can be used to support entitlement to VA individual unemployability benefits can take many forms ranging from medical opinions to education and work history.

How do Medical Opinions Impact TDIU Claims?

The professional opinions of psychologists, doctors, nurses, etc. hold a great deal of weight in determining whether a veteran is entitled to receive TDIU benefits.  The examiner will provide an expert opinion as to whether or not a veteran’s service connected disabilities prevent them from gaining and keeping gainful employment. Essentially, the medical opinion is a list of physical and cognitive limitations that the veteran faces that will provide insight as to whether or not the veteran can do things such as, stand or sit for long periods, focus on work, left heavy objects, etc.

How do Vocational Opinions Affect TDIU?

While not required, a vocational opinion from VA should be requested to address any evidence of the veteran’s occupational or educational limitations. A seasoned veteran’s disability attorney will also include favorable private vocational records and opinions to further the veteran’s claim.

Favorable vocational evidence can be highly effective because they provide a better picture of the veteran’s limitations that either weren’t given context or might have been missed in the medical examination. Often times, this is due to the specialization of the examiner; for example, a psychiatrist evaluating a veteran’s PTSD cannot also examine a lower back injury because they are not qualified to do so. Since many veterans have more than one disability, vocational opinions can show how these disabilities limit the veteran in in combination with one another.

Do Lay Statements Help With TDIU Claims?

Lay statements are an effective tool in any VA disability claim. They are easy to acquire, there is no limit on how many can be submitted, and they are free. Lay evidence are written statements from the veteran, or someone that sees the limitations and challenges that the veteran faces daily. These can be from a former co-worker, a member of the family, or the veteran’s spouse. These statements VA with insight about the veteran’s disability that may not be present in other evidence. 

Lay statements should include how they know the details of your disability. As an example, if a former coworker submits a lay statement they should explain when and how long they worked with you. They should also explain how often they saw you, and how the disability has impacted your inability to work. Including this level of detail can ensure that VA does not determine that the lay evidence presented is too unclear and unusable. Your veteran’s disability attorney can help people submitting lay statements on your behalf with the level of detail that should go into their statement.

Social Security Determinations

If the Veteran is receiving SSI or SSDI, this can be used as evidence to support their VA claim for TDIU benefits, and VA is required to consider it. While VA and Social Security both share the goal of determining if a person is capable of working, VA is only focused on service connected disabilities. So, if a veteran has a service related disability that they are receiving benefits for, this can certainly be used as favorable evidence for a TDIU claim.

VA cannot use the fact that a veteran is receiving Social Security benefits for an non service related condition as grounds for denial. VA is only permitted to  evaluate service related disabilities. Contact a trusted VA disability lawyer today if you would like to learn more about all of this.