If you’re a veteran who’s had trouble keeping a job because of your service-connected disability—you’re not alone. Many veterans with orthopedic disabilities, chronic pain, PTSD, or anxiety, for example, may struggle to keep a steady job.
For these veterans, the VA created Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU). This program allows the VA to pay you a rate equal to 100% disability compensation, even if you haven’t received a 100% disability rating.
To determine eligibility, you need to complete and submit VA Form 21-8940. This form is sometimes called the “VA unemployability form” or the “Veterans Application for Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability.” Keep reading to learn how to complete this form step by step.
- Who is eligible for TDIU?
- How does VA Form 21-8940 help my TDIU claim?
- Section I: Veteran identification information
- Section II: Disability and medical treatment
- Section III: Employment Statement
- Section IV: Schooling and Other Training
- Section V-VI
- What’s Next?
- Need More Assistance?
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Who is eligible for TDIU?
To be eligible for TDIU, you must have either:
- One disability that is rated at 60 percent or more
- Multiple disabilities, with one disability rated at 40 percent or higher, and a total rating of 70 percent or more
If you don’t meet the criteria above, there are still ways you could qualify for TDIU, which are considered on a case-by-case basis. Full and complete proof must still be shown that the conditions make you entirely unemployable. You could still qualify if:
- The disability is exceptional or unusual and can’t be properly evaluated by the established rating schedule
- The disability includes factors such as marked interference with employment or frequent periods of hospitalization
We’ve got your back if you’re not sure if you qualify.
How does VA Form 21-8940 help my TDIU claim?
This VA form for unemployability is used to collect information. They will evaluate your eligibility for TDIU based on the answers you provide. This form doesn’t establish the effective date of your condition but only gathers the information needed for the VA to decide on your TDIU claim. The VA also uses follow-up forms (such as VA Form 21-4192) to help gather information.
Be sure to follow our instructions below when filling out the form.
IMPORTANT: All boxes on form 21-8940 refer to “substantially gainful” employment. They do not apply to part-time odd jobs, otherwise known as “marginally gainful” employment. For a job to be considered “substantially gainful,” it must:
- Be competitive; Guaranteed jobs like those at a family business are not considered substantially gainful.
- Pay wages above the poverty line
List the dates, names, addresses, and any other information VA Form 21-8940 asks for as it applies to your substantially gainful employment, even if you simultaneously worked other jobs considered marginally gainful.
For example, if your disability has forced you to leave a full-time job as a truck driver, but you still work weekends as a landscaper, you could still be eligible for TDIU. Marginally gainful jobs do not affect your TDIU eligibility, and you can continue working them even if your TDIU claim is approved.
Also, passive income (e.g., from stock dividends) does not fall under substantially gainful and will not affect your eligibility.
Section I: Veteran identification information
Section 1 of VA Form 21-8940 is the simplest. It has all the blocks you’re used to seeing. Here, you’ll fill in your:
- Social Security Number (SSN)
- VA file number
- Date of birth
- Mailing address
- Email address
- Phone number
As always, be sure the information you provide is complete and accurate. Any errors could delay the claims process.
Section II: Disability and medical treatment
Section 2 of VA Form 8940 begins with box 8.
This box asks what service-connected condition keeps you from working or pursuing a career.
To be eligible for TDIU, you must have a disability that is rated at least 60% (or multiple disabilities that add up to at least 70%, with one being rated at least 40%). However, make sure only to list the condition that limits your ability to maintain a job.
Note: If you have multiple service-connected conditions that keep you from working, list the top two. If you run out of writing space, you can attach a letter (as an addendum). But be sure to make a note in box 26 (remarks) saying a letter is attached; otherwise, the VA won’t review it.
If you’ve seen a doctor or you’ve been admitted as an inpatient to a hospital (this typically means you stayed overnight) for the condition(s) listed in box 8 on your VA Form 21-8940, then check yes.
Box 10 asks for the date range of recurring treatment. Do you see a doctor for treatment once a week, every week? Once a month, every month? If so, list the date range for those recurring appointments.
For example, if you saw a doctor every month during 2022, put 01-01-2022 to 12-31-2022. Or, if you saw a doctor on one specific day, put that date in the FROM and TO box. You can use box 26 to list additional date ranges if there was a long break between treatments. There, write, “Item 10 continued:”
Boxes 11 and 12 of VA Form 21-8940 are self-explanatory. But be sure the information is accurate and that you write legibly and with correct spelling. Any errors could delay the claims process.
Box 13 asks for a date range as well. If you know the date you were admitted and discharged from the hospital, put those dates here. (You can put a date range if you were hospitalized several times).
Note: Boxes 9-13 only refer to treatment you’ve received (or hospitalization) for the condition(s) listed in box 8.
Section III: Employment Statement
Section 3 of VA Form 21-8940 asks for several pieces of employment information.
Boxes 14-16 are used to establish when your disability listed in box 8 began affecting your ability to work. If you can’t remember exact dates, a month and year is fine.
In box 14, put the date your disability started affecting your work performance. Try to remember the first time your disability forced you to take time off or an employer wrote you up for a reason caused by your disability, and write that date.
In box 15, write the date you either transitioned to part-time or quit working entirely. In box 16, write the date your disability forced you to stop working. This may be the same date you listed in box 15.
Boxes 17 A-C
Boxes 17A-C of VA Form 21-8940 refer to your entire life. Think back to the year in your life you made the most money, and write the amount, year, and occupation or job title.
Be sure you understand what this box is asking before filling it out. It is NOT asking for your employment history from the most recent five (5) years. It IS asking for your employment history from the five years preceding the date you quit working. For example, if you stop working in 2020, the VA wants your employment history from 2015-2020. Be sure to include any military duty as well.
When filling out the box labeled “time lost from illness”, remember it only refers to the condition(s) you listed in box 8.
The box labeled “highest gross earnings per month” asks for the most you made in a month at that job before taxes. You may have to look back at previous pay stubs to determine your answer.
Note: Don’t forget to fill in your social security number at the top of pages 2-4!
Boxes 19-20 A&B
If you are in the reserves or National Guard when you fill out VA Form 21-8940 and your service-connected disability prevents you from performing your military duties, check yes. If it doesn’t prevent you from performing your duties, check no. Leave this box blank if you’re not in the reserves or National Guard.
As opposed to box 18, boxes 20A and 20B refer to the most recent 12 months. Total up how much you’ve made before taxes in the last twelve months and write that amount in box 20A. And if you’re currently working, write how much you make per month in box 20B, even if it’s at a job considered marginally gainful.
If you’re not working at all, this should be $0. Your answer should not include pensions, retirement, IRA’s, 401k’s, SSD, or SSI.
In box 21A of VA Form 21-8940, check yes if you were fired, laid off, or resigned from your last job because of the service-connected disability you listed in box 8. If you check yes, be sure to clarify in the remarks section. Explain whether you quit, were fired, or were laid off, and provide any other details that might be relevant.
Next, check boxes 21B and 21C according to your circumstances.
If you’ve tried finding a job since you stopped working, check yes. If yes, list the jobs you’ve applied for. If you’re like many people and apply for multiple jobs very quickly when job hunting, list the most recent ones you’ve applied to in boxes 22A-C.
Section IV: Schooling and Other Training
Section 4 of VA Form 21-8940 collects information about your education and training.
In box 23, check the highest level of education you’ve completed. If you received any education or training not included in box 23 before you became too disabled to work, then check yes in box 24A. Otherwise, check no.
If you check yes in 24A, complete boxes 24B and 24C.
Similarly, in box 25A, check yes if you’ve received any education or training not included in box 23 after becoming too disabled to work. If yes, complete boxes 25B and 25C.
Section 5 (V) of VA Form 21-8940 is the remarks section that’s mentioned several times in this article.
Lastly, section 6 (VI) is where you date and sign. One thing to note, if you’re unable to sign and sign by mark, you’ll need two witnesses to sign as well.
Once completed, you’re ready to submit to the VA using any of the following options:
- Online using your va.gov account.
- Work with an accredited representative or agent. Locate one at https://www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp.
- Mail it:
Department of Veterans Affairs Claims Intake Center
P.O. Box 4444 Janesville, Wisconsin
- Fax it to: 844-531-7818 or 248-524-4260 (if living overseas)
- Or, go to a VA regional office and have a VA employee help you.
That’s it! Once you’ve submitted VA Form 21-8940, the VA will send you a confirmation that they’ve received it.
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Clay Huston is a former U.S. Army Reserves Blackhawk Pilot and officer. Clay enlisted in the Army in 2013 and was commissioned as a 2LT in 2017 after earning a business degree from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana.
Since separating from the military, Clay has pursued a career as a writer. He also runs the nonprofit notfatherless.org which fundraises for Children’s Homes in Mexico.