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Why a Vocational Assessment is Effective in TDIU Claims

CRC Newsletter | August 2020

*A decision concerning entitlement to a TDIU evaluation in accordance with 38 CFR 3.340, 38 CFR 3.341(a), and 38 CFR 4.16 is based on a review of all available evidence, which should be sufficient to evaluate:

  • Current severity of the SC disability(ies) that the Veteran states and/or the evidence indicates prevent(s) substantially gainful employment

  • The impact of SC disability(ies) upon employability, and employment status.

*Development of the claim must be targeted at gathering all evidence concerning economic and non-economic factors affecting employability, including but not limited to evidence concerning the Veteran’s:

  • Current employment status

  • Past employment history

  • Educational/training history, and

  • Functional impairment(s) arising from SC disabilities as shown by examinations, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or private medical evidence, and lay evidence.

*U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Compensation Manual: M21-1, Part IV, Subpart ii, Chapter 2, Section F Compensation Based on Individual Unemployability (IU) Article ID: 554400000014564 Vocational experts are qualified to thoroughly assess the impact of imposed functional impairments secondary to physical, psychological, cognitive, and social limitations on a veteran’s employability in light of an individual’s education, work history, and acquired skills (or lack thereof).

During Compensation & Pension (C&P) examinations, the examiner generally assesses each service-connected condition, many times without considering the combined effect of service-connected conditions. Medical professionals distinguish the physical, psychological, and cognitive limitations associated with each condition. At the end of C&P examinations, the examiner addresses the functional impact of each condition upon the veteran’s ability to work. Often-times, the medical examiner will opine on a veteran’s ability to work and such determinations can be utilized in a denial of disability benefits.

In cases without vocational experts, the VA generally relies on VA physicians to make the determination of unemployability. Although medical evidence is a crucial component to a claim for TDIU, medical examiners frequently do not consider the comprehensive impact of the veteran’s combined conditions, nor do they have the expertise, training, or knowledge to consider vocational factors of each case such as: the impact of physical, social, cognitive, or psychological functional limitations (as opined by C&P examiners and treating physicians), along with an individual’s educational achievement, work history, and acquired skills compared to the demands of competitive employment.

Vocational experts have unique and extensive knowledge and expertise to evaluate whether veterans have the education, work experience, transferrable skill set, and adequate physical and mental capacity to secure and maintain employment at Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) levels. Vocational experts compare the veteran’s limitations (residual functional capacity including exertional and non-exertional impairments resulting from service-connected conditions, to essential job duties and employer standards (eg. tolerance for work absences, time off task, ability to interact with coworkers and supervisors, ability to meet the demands of unskilled, sedentary employment; among others). Vocational experts are also uniquely qualified to address more complex issues such as marginal or unmaintained work, and protected or “sheltered” work environments. The vocational expert is the most qualified professional to render expert opinion on a veteran’s ability to obtain and maintain competitive employment at SGA levels and can critically alter the final decision in a TDIU claim. Vocational assessments to supplement your TDIU claim can be particularly compelling because this evidence can provide a wider scope of a veteran’s limitations that may not otherwise be mentioned or thoroughly analyzed in medical examinations.

CRC Services’ vocational assessment reports follow a standard methodology with foundation to include: thorough review of the veteran’s relevant medical records, vocational interview with the veteran, vocational analysis of the impact of service-connected conditions on employability, analysis of the veteran’s education and prior work experience, evaluation of transferable skills, and individualized vocational conclusions regarding the veteran’s inability to work. Vocational reports submitted to the VA as supportive evidence in your disability claim help veterans and their representatives highlight vocational limitations related to one’s service-connected disabilities and improve chances of a favorable TDIU decision.

In August 2019, 4.7 million veterans, or 25 percent of the total, had a service-connected disability.

Among veterans with a service-connected disability, 26 percent reported a disability rating of less than 30 percent, while another 44 percent had a rating of 60 percent or higher.

In August 2019, veterans with a service-connected disability rating of less than 30 percent were much more likely to be in the labor force than those with a rating of 60 percent or higher (53.8 percent and 40.8 percent, respectively).

The unemployment rate for veterans with a disability rating of less than 30 percent was 3.0 percent, lower than the rate for those with a disability rating of 60 percent or higher (8.6 percent).

**U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics – Employment Situation of Veterans (2019) News Release

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