This is not legal advice. You should always seek the advice of an attorney who is qualified in Veterans' law before you make any decisions about your own benefits. Visit Stateside Legal (below) for assistance with legal issues.
NOTE: Letters in my Q&A columns are reprinted just as they come to me. Spelling and grammar are left as is and only small corrections are made to improve readability, ensure anonymity or delete expletives that may offend some readers. This is not legal advice. You should always seek the advice of an attorney who is qualified in Veterans' law before you make any decisions about your own benefits.
If you have questions about TDIU, please contact me by email.
You may write directly to me at <firstname.lastname@example.org> I do try to answer all emails asap but p;ease be patient.
Before you do contact me, please spend the time required to read through the information provided below. There is a lot to learn and you'll get better help from me if you read a bit first.
Total Disability Individual Unemployability TDIU
Total Disability - Individual Unemployabilty (TDIU or simply IU) is widely misunderstood. Please read the information you find below then return here to click this link and read a recent VA Training Letter updating the subject.
I’m applying for 70% TDIU. Once I’ve received my award, how can I get the TDIU benefit to become a more permanent 100%?
You’ve asked a question I receive dozens of time each month. The TDIU benefit is perhaps the least understood of all VA disability compensation benefits.
You’re in luck. I’ve just received the most recent training letter that VA has on the topic. The TL 10-07 was distributed 09/14/2010 and will soon affect the VA M21-MR, IV.ii.2.F
If you’ll take the time to carefully read through this column and then the attached document, you’ll be up to date. I’ll take a moment to remind you that when you are confronting the VA disability compensation process, you’re on your own. The veteran who educates him or her self on the basics of the rules and regulations of the system is far more likely to be awarded the maximum benefit earned.
Veterans who depend on others to help them aren’t likely to fare as well. I often meet veterans who have decided that they deserve benefits but they want someone else to do the task of applying to VA and completing all the paperwork for them. They’re frequently angry when the process fails them.
I am a champion of the DIY approach. A veteran who spends the necessary time to read and understand the data I’ll present today will be in control of his future. The vet who decides that this is too much work and way too much to read and understand is far less likely to achieve a maximum benefit.
I’ll do my best to keep my part of this simple and easy to understand. The Training Letter from VA is a bit more complex.
Total Disability compensation may be achieved on two separate paths at VA. You may be rated as 100% disabled via The Schedule For Rating Disabilities or you may be rated as 100% disabled via the Individual Unemployability path.
A “schedular” rating might be one where you have a condition that is required to have a 100% rating, for example, you’ve had an AICD implanted to control erratic beats of your heart. The path to this rating could be that a Vietnam veteran develops DMII. DMII in the RVN veteran is presumptively rated as service connected. If that veteran then develops heart disease, the heart disease can easily be proven as secondary to the DMII, thus the heart disease becomes a secondary service connected condition.
Should that heart disease then develop into a condition that medically requires the implanting of an AICD device, the veteran is rated as 100% disabled by the schedule. Notwithstanding the ratings for DMII and heart disease, the implanting of an AICD is rated as a 100% disabling condition.
Interestingly, the schedular rating has nothing to do with a veterans employment. The fact that there is a service connection to the implanting of the AICD device is the only requirement. That veteran who receives that rating may then become employed with no fear of losing the rating. Some people who receive such devices do choose to continue to work at gainful employment.
Then there are veterans who have a number of lesser conditions with various ratings but because of the Combined Ratings Table or “VA Math”, their multiple conditions and ratings don’t add up to 100%.
VA recognizes that many of these veterans, although they are not rated as 100% disabled, aren’t able to seek and keep gainful employment. In VA terms, they are unemployable due to their service connected disabilities.VA then looks carefully at these individuals as individuals to assess how much of an effect the combination of service connected disabilities has had on their ability to earn an income and work as productive citizens.
If it is apparent that the service connected disabilities keep the veteran out of the work force, then VA must assign the rating of 100% disabled due to Individual Unemployability. It’s worth noting at this point that to be rated as 100% unemployable by the VA system, all the disabilities considered must be service connected.
This is markedly different than the Social Security system and the SSDI benefit. In the SSA system, one must show that he or she can not reasonably hold employment due to any mix of disabling conditions. To achieve a 100% rating in the VA system, all disabling conditions that are to be considered must be established as being caused or contributed to by military service.
There are requirements when VA considers the TDIU benefit. The veteran must have a rating of at least 60% with a single condition rated at 60% or greater or the veteran must have a rating of 70% with at least one of the underlying ratings at 40%.
If those requirements aren’t met precisely the Regional Office may then forward the application for TDIU to VACO for a decision by the C & P Director. If it is then determined that this individual veteran will not be reasonably able to achieve gainful employment in the future, the Director may assign the TDIU benefit. Either the schedular or the IU benefit may be temporary or it may be permanent. If permanence is awarded for either a schedular or an IU 100% rating, the statement, “Basic eligibility under 38 U.S.C. Chapter 35 is established from [date].” is required.
It’s worth noting that many decision letters don’t include either this statement or any other hints of the permanence of the award and the veteran is left wondering. The alternative statement used is “future examinations are scheduled” meaning that the award is temporary or “no future examinations are scheduled” indication that the award is permanent.
The word “permanent” is a misnomer when used by VA. The VA may elect at any time to review any claim to render a proposal of changes to the claim. There is no protection of a 100% rating until the rating has been in place, uninterrupted, for 20 years.
Other than the path to achieve the benefit and that the IU rated veteran can not hold gainful employment, the Schedular 100% rating and the IU 100% rating are exactly the same. The monthly benefit amount is equal across the board. If the rating is said to be permanent by VA all benefits for dependents are exactly the same.
I recommend that veterans do not attempt to change an IU rating to a schedular rating, a practice I see a lot of. To achieve the 100% schedular rating does not change any benefit that the veteran may receive. Any attempt to modify the IU status to a schedular status does open one’s folder for review however. This can be a hazardous maneuver as any time the folder is opened for review, the VA will first look at opportunities to lower the rating. I’ve communicated with a number of veterans who have attempted to have their IU switched to schedular and who find themselves staring at a letter proposing to reduce their benefit significantly because of “improvements” to their conditions.
I’ve also confronted veterans who wish to trade the IU rating to a schedular rating so that they are able to preserve their 100% rating as they return full time to gainful employment. There are a few of us who would gleefully game the system and milk out dollars by deceiving VA about the extent of their disabling conditions. I do not condone such activity personally and I’m aware of the many checks and balances that VA has in place to prevent such fraud.
The TDIU Training Letter is one of the best I’ve seen. It is comprehensive and provides a number of good examples of how this works. I’m also including another explanation of the IU benefit via a link below. While this dates from 2005, it continues to be relevant as Daniel Cooper describes the benefit to members of Congress.
You are advised to pay close attention to details in this training letter. For example, the requirement to complete VA Form 21-4140 is reinforced here.The VA Form 21-4192, “Request for Employment Information in Connection with Claim for Disability Benefit” is required but it’s noted that, “A TDIU evaluation should not be denied solely because an employer failed to return a completed VA Form 21-4192.”Perhaps most significantly, “However, as a result of the Rice decision, a request for TDIU, whether specifically raised by the Veteran or reasonably raised by the evidence of record, is no longer to be considered as a separate claim but will be adjudicated as part of the initial disability rating or as part of a claim for increased compensation.”
Keep reading, continue educating yourself. At the VAWatchdogToday site you’ll always find the latest factual and relevant news that you can use. Learn and then DIY...Because nobody cares about your claim as much as you do.
my IU has been taken away and the VA says I did not send in a form. They said they mailed it but it went to my previous address so I never recieved it. The last form before this one I recieved at my current address. The va says the action is already taken. how can I recover from their mistake?
Unfortunately, the responsibility to ensure the form is timely completed is yours. If you moved and didn't have mail forwarded or notify VA in writing using certified mail, you made a serious mistake. If you did all that and VA erred anyhow, you should have downloaded a form, completed it and mailed it in. Changing a mailing address isn't easy with VA and one must be aware that some paper may not get to you as it should.
Even before they lower the benefit they will give you advance notice of "adverse action" so that you can get it straight before you've actually lost the benefit.
I write about this here http://jimstrickland912.com/I.htm and here http://tinyurl.com/ydsl6lw
If VA has reduced your benefit your only option now is to appeal. You must write to them using a formal letter and explain that for some reason you didn't receive the 4140 form. Be sure to enclose a 4140 that covers the period in question. It may take time but you'll likely get the IU benefit back with little fuss.
I advise IU veterans to keep it in mind that on or about the anniversary of their IU award they owe the VA a 4140 form. I usually complete 2 each year just to stay safe.
I hate to bother you with this question but nobody I know seems to know the answer. I am "permanent and total" (their letter to me) by way of IU benefits. I was reading the site and ran across where you stated that the "form" to verify employment or lack of has been re-started. I received no such request from the VA at the end of the year and was wondering if I should find out about or do anything about this?
Stuff like this always makes me very nervous. What would be your take on this? As always, thanks for your time.
I'm happy to hear that you're paying attention and thinking about these things. Smart veterans ask questions and learn all they can about the wide range of benefits they've earned. Answering your question is no bother, I enjoy being able to help. I don't always know the answers but this time I do.
I've written a lot about the VA Form 4140 and just yesterday I was gathering up and reposting some of that to the TDIU page on my VAWatchdogToday web site.
A little background seems appropriate...
TDIU or Total Disability, Individual Unemployability ratings are in every way equal to "schedular" ratings of 100% Permanently & Totally disabled. The TDIU rating allows VA to assign a 100% benefit even when the veterans schedular % of disability doesn't add up to 100. It's recognized that some ratings lower than 100% will substantially interfere with the veteran achieving and holding on to gainful employment. Since the VA system is all about employment, if you can't work due to service connected conditions VA sees you as 100% disabled.
Many years ago someone realized that there may be vets who would receive the TDIU benefit and then return to work and game the system. While the 100% schedular benefit doesn't restrict gainful employment, a veteran can't receive an "unemployable" benefit and at the same time be working a steady job.
To keep track of who was or wasn't working, the VA decided to simply ask vets to verify that they hadn't worked in the last year preceding the receipt of the 4140 form. The 4140 is a statement saying that the vet hasn't (or has) worked. Falsifying or not completing and returning the statement carries penalties up to and including loss of the benefit.
The statement should be sent to you and returned by you on or about the anniversary of your benefit award. My own award came about in June so each June I should get the letter.
We realize that we're dealing with VA though so we have learned that whether or not we receive the 4140 on time or at all is anybody's guess. Each regional office has its own way of getting those things out the door and most often that means you won't get it at all or it won't be timely delivered to you. For years Regional Offices had decided that the forms were largely a waste of time and didn't bother with them. Then it was decided that they are required by law so now we do receive them but as always, not efficiently.
It has often happened that a veteran doesn't receive the 4140 but months later will receive a notice of a proposed adverse action...VA will threaten to take the TDIU benefit from the vet because he didn't complete a form he never knew he should have, but didn't, receive.
Yes...VA won't mail you the 4140 but since you didn't timely return it...they will propose to reduce your benefit.
Note that I said "propose". The proposal letter is only a notice of a potential problem, it isn't a decision to modify the benefit. If the vet should ever have that happen, it's usually pretty simple to clear up by completing a 4140 and enclosing it with a letter to the Regional Office explaining that the veteran didn't receive any forms from that RO.
I recommend that every veteran who receives the TDIU benefit should develop his or her own calendar and download and mail in the 4140 the 1st of the month of their award anniversary each year. I do that myself. In fact, I mail in a 4140 at the 1st of each new year and then again in June. I figure that if one is misplaced the other may cover me.
As with all communications to your VA, I strongly recommend that the vet use only certified mail, RRR to send the 4140. Keep the receipt in your personal VA files for future use if it should become necessary.
It's worth mentioning that if you certify to VA that you have not held gainful employment but that isn't true, you're probably going to regret it. While VA accepts your word on the 4140, they also will cross reference the veteran to state and federal tax agencies and if you or an employer are reporting that you have a taxable income, you will be investigated and you may have to return all the payments that VA considers were made in error. If you're one of the few who have an earned income but you don't report it for tax purposes, you have issues far beyond the 4140 forms.
As a final comment I'll tell you that I get a lot of mail asking me how one may take the TDIU benefit over to the 100% schedular benefit and avoid all this? My answer is always the same: You don't want to do that. If you received a TDIU benefit, trying to carry it over to a schedular rating will mean that your file will get a thorough review. Any time that happens VA will first look for a way to reduce the benefit overall. That can open up a can of worms you don't want to deal with.
If the veteran wants to convert TDIU to schedular so that he can return to gainful employment, that veteran is likely gaming the system and I always disagree with that.
One of the best definitions of the Individual Unemployability benefit (TDIU or 100% IU) is in a speech given by Danial L. Cooper, Undersecretary for Benefits. If you'll take the time to carefully read his detailed explanation of the benefit, you'll understand why there is such a thing and how it may be achieved.
This is what he had to say;
October 27, 2005 Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee:
Thank you for the opportunity to review with you the issue of Individual Unemployability (IU). I will discuss what IU is, its history, the criteria used to determine eligibility, the number of veterans receiving IU benefits, the May 2005 study by the Inspector General (IG) of state variances in average annual compensation, and other issues.
I am pleased to be accompanied by Ms. Renée Szybala, Director of VA’s Compensation and Pension Service, and Ms. Judith Caden, Director of VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service.
What Is IU
Individual Unemployability or IU is the basis on which the Department of Veterans Affairs pays service-connected disability compensation at the rate payable for a 100-percent evaluation to qualified veterans with combined evaluations that are less than 100 percent. Regional office decision-makers assign IU ratings when veterans meet minimum combined evaluation criteria and, in the judgment of the rating official(s), are unemployable due solely to their service-connected conditions.
In exceptional circumstances, regional offices may refer cases that fail to meet the minimum combined evaluation criteria to the Director of the Compensation and Pension Service for consideration of an IU rating. Authority Section 1155 of title 38, United States Code, charges the Secretary with responsibility for developing and applying a disability rating schedule that is based, “as far as practicable,” upon the average impairments of earning capacity resulting from service-connected disabilities.
Recognizing that the intent of the rating schedule is to fairly compensate veterans for their disabilities to the extent to which they impair earning capacity of the average veteran, the schedule none-the-less cannot always adequately compensate an individual veteran in his or her particular circumstance. To address the inevitable situations where the schedule does not adequately address a particular fact pattern, the schedule adopted by the Secretary provides both IU and extra-schedular provisions.
Brief History of IU
In 1925, the Schedule for Rating Disabilities provided the first definition of total disability. Total disability was defined as an impairment of mind or body that is sufficient to render it impossible for the average person to follow a substantially gainful occupation. In 1934, total disability was expanded to provide that total disability ratings may be assigned without regard to the specific provisions of the rating schedule when the veteran is, in the judgment of the rating agency, unable to follow a substantially gainful occupation as a result of the veteran’s disabilities.
To be eligible for consideration for IU benefits, the schedule required that a veteran have a single 70 percent evaluation or, if the veteran had multiple service-connected conditions, that the minimum combined evaluation be 80 percent with at least one disability considered 60 percent disabling.
In 1941, the minimum requirements for consideration for IU entitlement were revised to today’s standard of 60 percent for a single disability or a combined 70 percent evaluation with at least one 40 percent disability.
Throughout the rating schedule, a 60 percent evaluation or higher reflects significant disability. A 40 percent evaluation assigned to a condition generally reflects a serious handicap. Therefore, when multiple service-connected conditions are involved, the higher 70 percent minimum combined evaluation is reasonable to allow for the interplay of multiple disabilities.
The 1945 rating schedule established that age was not to be considered a factor in evaluating service-connected disability, and that entitlement to IU could not be based on advancing age or additional non-service-connected disability. Under VA regulations, if a veteran’s earned income does not exceed the amount established by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, as the poverty threshold for one person, currently $9,570, the veteran is only marginally employed, and marginal employment does not qualify as substantially gainful employment.
Also, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims held in Faust v. West that employment that provides annual income exceeding the poverty threshold for one person, irrespective of the number of hours or days actually worked and without regard to the veteran’s annual earned income prior to the award of the IU rating, constitutes "actual employability."
Number of IU Beneficiaries
The number of veterans rated totally disabled based on IU has more than doubled in the past six years from 97,275 veterans in 1999 to over 221,000 veterans today. There is no single clear explanation for the increase in IU ratings over the last six years. However, the rise has occurred concurrent with other significant changes. Since September 30, 1999, the number of veterans receiving compensation has increased from 2,252,980 to 2,636,979 at the end of fiscal year 2005. This increase of 383,999 veterans represents a 17 percent rise in the number of veterans receiving compensation.
There has also been an increase in the average combined disability evaluation over the same period. At the end of 1999, 57 percent of all veterans receiving compensation had combined evaluations of 30 percent or less. Today it is 46 percent. The percent of veterans with combined evaluations of 60 percent disability or more has increased from 17 percent at the end of 1999 to the current 29 percent. An interplay of advancing age, diabetes, and various presumptions of service connection for cancers associated with herbicide and radiation, as well as a significant increase in the number of veterans awarded service-connection for PTSD, account for a substantial portion of the increase. Recent court decisions have also had an impact on IU ratings.
For example, in 1999, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in Norris v. West held that VA must infer a claim for IU if the veteran files a claim for increased disability, meets the schedular minimum combined evaluation criteria, and there is evidence of inability to engage in substantially gainful employment due to service-connected disability.
Interplay with Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E)
In its September 1987 report, “Improving the Integrity of VA’s Unemployability Compensation Program,” the then General Accounting Office (GAO) recommended that VA revise its regulations to require that all veterans applying for a total disability rating based on IU be referred for a vocational rehabilitation evaluation. VA does not currently require an employment assessment by VR&E program staff as part of the IU entitlement determination. If the Secretary decided to require an employment assessment in connection with determining a veteran’s entitlement to IU, VA would first promulgate regulations defining the scope, purpose, and criteria for conducting such an assessment, and the manner in which VA would implement such assessments. A veteran’s participation in a program of rehabilitation, education, or training does not preclude a total disability rating based on IU.
Veterans with compensable service-connected disabilities, including those with IU ratings, may be entitled to receive vocational rehabilitation benefits under the VR&E program (chapter 31, title 38, United States Code). VA also may not deny a veteran’s IU claim on the basis that he or she is participating in a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) program of therapeutic and rehabilitative services, or consider therapeutic and rehabilitative activities as evidence of a veteran’s ability to secure or follow a substantially gainful occupation. Our regulations allow a veteran receiving IU benefits to work 12 consecutive months in substantially gainful employment before any change is made in the IU determination.
A total disability rating based on IU can result in eligibility for additional benefits for a veteran’s dependents and survivors. Educational benefits for the veteran’s spouse and eligible children are available under the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (title 38, United States Code, Chapter 35). The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) provides reimbursement to eligible dependents for most medical expenses, provided that they are not also eligible for health care benefits provided by the Department of Defense. To be eligible for both of these benefits, the veteran’s IU determination must be considered permanent. Permanency for eligibility to Chapter 35 and CHAMPVA requires that there not be a future examination scheduled.
In most cases, to be considered for IU benefits, a veteran must apply. However, in the Norris case mentioned earlier, the court held that a veteran need not apply for IU for a claim for IU to be inferred. Thus, VA is required to consider the issue in certain circumstances, even if the veteran did not explicitly apply for an IU rating. Recent guidance to the field directed that, once an IU claim is inferred, an application must be sent to the veteran for completion in order to obtain the essential information requested on the application form. The form asks the veteran to furnish an employment history for the five-year period preceding the date on which the veteran became unemployable, as well as from that date to the date of application. As part of the development of IU claims, field stations are also required to solicit information from each employer during the 12-month period preceding the date the veteran last worked. The employer is asked to provide information concerning the veteran’s employment history including the date of employment, the type of work performed, and if the veteran is not currently working, the reasons for termination of employment.
Role of the Medical Examiner
If the rating official determines that a medical examination is necessary to determine whether a veteran is entitled to a total disability rating based on IU, an appropriate examination or opinion request is submitted to a VHA medical facility or our contract examination provider. Medical examiners follow the appropriate worksheets to perform a complete and adequate examination for rating purposes, answering all questions and providing opinions as requested. A diagnosis is to be provided for every condition listed on the examination request. The medical examiner should describe the disability’s effect on the veteran’s daily activities and ability to work. For IU claims, the examiner should also obtain the veteran’s occupational history (i.e., type of occupation, employment dates, wages for last 12 months, and detail any time that was lost from work in past 12-month period).
Continued IU Eligibility
Once a veteran is awarded IU benefits and until he or she attains age 70, the veteran is required to submit an annual employment certification. This procedure was resumed in September after having been suspended for approximately six years. The veteran must list all employment for the preceding 12-month period. VA uses the certification to verify continued entitlement to IU benefits. Failure to return the form will cause VA to send the veteran a contemporaneous notice of reduction of the monthly benefit payment to the rate justified by the underlying rating. VA may schedule a reexamination for any veteran when VA determines there is a need to verify the continued existence or current severity of a disability.
Generally, VA requires reexamination if it is likely that a disability has improved or if evidence indicates that a disability has materially changed or that the current rating may be incorrect. Periodic future examinations are not requested if the disability is unlikely to improve, if symptoms have persisted without material improvement for a period of five or more years, where the disability is permanent in character, or in cases where the veteran is age 55 or older.
After a veteran has received compensation at any level of disability for 20 years, to include total disability benefits based on IU, that compensation rate is protected.
Veterans receiving IU benefits are subject to VA’s annual income verification match (IVM). The IVM uses Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Social Security Administration (SSA) income records to verify that IU beneficiaries remain below the earnings threshold for entitlement to IU benefits.
Reviews of VA Claims Processing Related to IU
Former Secretary Anthony J. Principi, in response to media articles about state-to-state variance in average compensation payments to veterans, requested that the VA Inspector General (IG) study the payment variance issue. The IG found that payment variance was affected by several factors including demographic factors and representation by veterans service organizations, as well as the incidence of PTSD and the subsequent award of IU benefits for that condition. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) also issued a report in 2004 pointing to a need for increased analysis of the consistency of decision-making across regional offices. GAO is currently conducting a study of IU benefit decision-making. Based on the preliminary findings from these reviews, as well as a significant increase in the number of IU case referrals received in the latest IVM with IRS and SSA, we have been analyzing our existing IU procedures and regulations to determine if changes are needed. As discussed earlier, we have reinstated the annual employment certification for veterans receiving IU benefits.
We have also reinforced existing procedural and evidentiary guidelines for IU determinations through conference calls with our field stations and at our recent Veterans Service Center Managers Conference. We will continue to work to provide additional training for our employees, and to identify ways to strengthen and clarify our long-standing procedural requirements and ensure the integrity of this important benefit.
The IU benefit has a long history. It fills a critical gap when the rating schedule fails to fully address the impact of disability in a specific veteran’s circumstance. We believe that during this period of conflict and danger for our country, IU continues to be an essential tool in serving America’s veterans and fulfilling the country’s commitment to them. We at VBA are fully cognizant of this as we work to ensure those who have served this nation are fully compensated for their injuries and assisted in returning to participation in society to the maximum extent possible permitted by their injuries.
Thank you for this opportunity to discuss this important benefit. I would be pleased to address any questions you may have.
Facts about IU
We often refer to Individual Unemployability as IU. The Individual Unemployability Benefit is equal in every way to a 100% Schedular rating. The compensation is 100% and that dollar amount is equal to both ratings. If the veteran is rated as 100% Schedular, he or she may work at any job they are capable of doing. The veteran who is rated as IU may not hold "gainful employment".
The IU veteran is required to complete a yearly VA Form 21-4140 to verify that there has been no employment in the previous year. Each Regional Office seems to have its own way of delivering these forms, all too often they don't deliver them at all. It is the veterans responsibility to ensure that the 4140 is completed and mailed in on or about the anniversary of the award each year.
The veteran should simply download the form by clicking here, printing it and mailing it in using certified mail, return receipt requested.
Either the 100% Schedular rating or the 100% IU rating may be rated as Permanent and Total (P&T). Either rating may be a temporary one with future examinations scheduled.
In regards to your last message on the part of other Vets receiving letters and forms with the dates wrong makes me NOT feel like the lone stranger. I wish I had more information on what the VA is REQUIRED to do when sending out letters and forms. Seems to me that they should send things certified mail, but that does not happen. I just wonder what requirements they are suppose to follow? I did contact the VA Regional Office here in Tennessee and the person in the benefits said that he would put the message in my file that the form was not the correct date.
About two years ago the VA sent an income verification form to have filled out, they had the GULL to put a P/0 box for a return address, well I thought of it and I looked up the street address and sent one certified mail to the street address and also sent one to the P/0 box , I made sure I covered the situation fully. You seem to be a very busy person so I will not take up your whole day on my stuff, thanks for being so helpful, I have done a lot in the workings to get my claim going, but as times passes my mind does get a little foggy.
Last night and today I have been busy getting a certified letter ready to send to the DARN VA as they sent me a letter/form 1-4140 which is the Employment Questionnaire, the problem with the form is that they put the WRONG date mailed on the form. I called the VA Regional Office yesterday and told them what was going on and they said that they would note it in my
file, but I really don't trust the VA at all so I am sending them the filled out form back today and sending it Certified receipt mail. The date that put on the form is over the 60 days allowed already so that can be a problem and yet I hope they take care of it right away and there is no problem with it as I did notify them right away and I am also sending a copy of
everything to my Service Officer who is right down the hall from the Regional Office in Nashville TN.
First I want to say thank you for what you do. Second I want to point out that on your "VA News Flash" for 12-18-2007 (http://www.vawatchdog.org/07/nf07/nfDEC07/nf121807-3.htm) there is someone with the same exact experience I am having. From the same office (Winston Salem, NC) to the same city (Fayetteville, NC). My VA Form 21-4140 has the "date mailed" box entered as August 1, 2008 and I just received the letter on October 10, 2008. I like the previous person find it hard to believe that the letter took 71 day's to arrive at my address approximately 115 miles away. Maybe the gentleman was correct and there is a conspiracy. Maybe you are correct and it is just "more sloppy work by untrained, unskilled and unsupervised VBA employees". Or maybe it was just an honest mistake which I want to believe. Either way I am going to hand deliver this form with my questions/complaint to the Winston Salem VARO and would like to know what person (job title) I should speak to to clear this up right away. I am under enough stress as it is without having to worry about paying my bills or being back in the mental ward because of undue stress from this exact type of situation. I have left my home less than ten times over the past 5 years but I feel compelled to go personally to clear this up as I am very upset about it.
Concerning the yearly 21-4140: I heeded my computer's advice and sent that form in during the first week of September as required. Today, October 10, I received from the VA a 21-4140 for my completion with a date mailed of August 1, 2008. No postmark on the envelope. Since I have all the receipts from the Certified Mail copy sent over a month ago do I safely ignore this one? Kept everything in my files, even the credit card receipt from the transaction at the PO, the PS Forms 3800 and 3811, the printout from the USPS web site showing exact time of
delivery, and a copy of the 21-4140 as filled out and signed. Sorry to take up your time with this minor matter but they did put a scare in me last February. This might be an issue of wider interest if this is to be an ongoing VA ploy or error."
I received a letter today (10/10/08) with no post mark date from the VA. Inside was VA form 21-4140 asking if I were employed in the past year. The form stated that my benefits could be reduced if the form were not returned within 60 days. It was noted as mailed on August 1, 2008. This would mean that the 60 days have expired already. I don't know what they are up to but I am going into the regional office to find out. Also, I will make a notation on the form as to when it was received and have them stamp and copy it.
Those veterans who receive the 100% Individual Unemployability (IU) benefit are required to complete an employment questionnaire each year. In your computerized record at the VARO is a 'future calendar' that should alert Veterans Service Representatives to ensure that you are sent the VA Form 21-4140 in a timely manner. This should occur at about the anniversary date of your award. You are required to complete the form as long as you hold the IU benefit or until you reach age 70.
This requirement has been on-again, off-again over the years. Not so long ago one of the temporary employees who have the brief task of pretending to manage the Department of Veterans Affairs decided that mailing that form wasn't worth the effort or expense and told the VBA to forget about it. Soon enough, another temp was appointed as Secretary and he decided that since all the really big problems at the VBA were fixed, he would tackle some of the other important issues and he put out the instructions to begin the 4140 requirement once again.
If you have Social Security Disability Insurance, you've been determined by the SSA to be unemployable for life. They don't require a yearly form and seem to do fine without it. They tell you that if you accept employment you must notify them and when you notify them, they'll work with you to determine what can be done to help you stay employed.
Across the hall over at the VA offices, they aren't as trusting of veterans. As you well know, your VA brands you as a thief who can't be trusted under any circumstance. From the moment you apply for a benefit you're guilty of trying to take their money from their wallets and they do everything in their power to ensure that you won't see any benefits.
If they screw it up and by some sort of mistake they do award you a benefit, they then make every effort to take it back. Unlike the Social Security folks, the VBA uses frequent reexaminations by their contract/employee physicians to show how much you've improved. (Of course this is a completely fair and impartial system and the fact that QTC is owned, operated by or consulted to by a handful for current and former DVA Secretaries shouldn't trouble you.)
The system works well for QTC in particular. Every veteran gets a QTC exam no matter how much medical evidence is already in the record. Then there are frequent reexams ordered to look for 'improvement'. Veterans then appeal and soon enough, another QTC - C & P exam is scheduled.
More and more physicians who can't find work in a state prison system due to their lack of credentials are employed by QTC to keep up with the demand. The owners and investors at QTC watch the business grow each year. Everyone wins!
The only loser is the veteran at the bottom of that food chain.
Another of the ploys used to take away your benefits is the "timely" response you must make when VA demands something from you. This works well for them and results in thousands of veterans losing benefits at least temporarily each year.
There is only one reason for the VA Form 21-4140. There is no evidence that it prevents veterans from perpetrating fraud by working and keeping their IU benefit. The IU veteran, like the SSDI recipient, knows that he or she shouldn't be capable of "substantial gainful employment". The individual who will perpetrate such fraud won't be stopped because they have to complete that form. They'll just lie on the form and mail it in. To believe that a veteran who has criminal activity on the mind will stop and reconsider what they intend to do is absurd. If you believe that, you believe that posting a warning at the door of Jiffy Marts will stop armed robberies.
The VBA has one purpose in mailing that form. It's designed to trip you up and bring you into a trap where your benefit can be permanently lowered.
When you receive the forms from the VA you have 30 to 60 days from the date of the form to return it. Your letter will tell you what you must do. If you don't return it, signed and completed, within the deadline VA begins immediate action. It's interesting to note how quickly and efficiently VBA can react when it's time to prosecute you for missing a deadline. It's apparent that the goal of swift action and reduction of a benefit is right up at the top of the list.
Of course, this wouldn't be a big issue if the 21-4140 was mailed on the date it was printed. The veteran would have it later in the week, complete it in the next day or two and then hoof it over to a post office to return it via certified mail, return receipt requested. Not a big deal, right?
The 3 veterans in those 3 emails above are all at different regions. Their messages came to me within 36 hours of each other. This is one of the most frequent messages that I receive. The email almost always tells me that they received the letter weeks after it was dated or they didn't receive it at all. The first indication that some veterans have that there's a problem is when they get the letter that tells them of a "proposal to reduce the IU benefit" because the veteran didn't timely return that 4140.
That's the point when a lot of vets panic. They call the VA's toll free number. (Don't EVER do that.) The person on the phone tells them, "Don't worry, be happy" or "Oh My God, why didn't you return the form?" or "I've noted it in your records so it shouldn't be a problem" or any other answer they can spew into your ear that will get you off the phone in less than 3 minutes. Whatever answer you get at the toll free number will be wrong. Forget that there is a toll free number. If you're tempted to use it, tear out your telephones and throw them away. Trust me on this one.
Or...the veteran rushes to their computer and sends an email via the IRIS system. If you don't know what IRIS is, great. I'm not telling you. You're better off that way.
Once VBA has caught you in this trap, the instructions on how to respond are included in the proposal letter you'll get. Once again, you'll have deadlines to meet. You have to follow those instructions precisely and with a little time spent worrying and jumping through some hoops, you'll probably be OK.
Is this "an ongoing VA ploy"? Could it be an "honest mistake"? Maybe it's just "more sloppy work by untrained, unskilled and unsupervised VBA employees"?
Could it be that "there is a conspiracy"?
I've defended the VBA in the past. Well, I've defended them by writing these things off to being just "more sloppy work", if you'd call that defending them. But I haven't allowed any evil conspiracy or closed door meetings to be seriously considered.
I'd still like to believe that there isn't a conspiracy. I can't accept the "honest mistake" option. That dog just won't hunt. To contemplate some designed ploy or conspiracy for the leaders of the DVA strikes fear in my heart. Can it be true that senior staff of the second largest government entity that reports to the POTUS is actually plotting to cheat veterans who have honorably served?
If that's true, I'm at a loss to think of what I should do. That would mean that the CIA did train Oswald, there are alien's remains tucked away in Roswell and HIV is a government project gone wrong.
I don't want to think that. Not yet. Not without proof positive. I'll stick with my own personal theory that the work done by the VBA is sloppy beyond comprehension. They seem almost proud of the amount of pure crap they can shovel out and get away with. And it's getting worse, not better. Those oversight agencies (GAO, IG) say that in every report they've produced that I can find.
The oversight agencies make stern recommendations, the VA argues why they can't do that, the error rate continues to rise, delays get worse, we find ourselves appealing every decision and the beat goes on. I've not found a single report that lauds the VBA for any significant improvement whatever. The best they can do are phrases like, "The VBA has made some efforts to improve towards the targets set 3 years ago and although they have improved processing time by 2 days, they are still short of the goal by 157 days." That isn't an improvement, that's a downhill slide any way it's looked at.
The bottom line is simple. Protect yourself. If you're IU, download the form at or about your anniversary and send it in. Don't wait for your RO to mail it to you. Cover your butt...use certified mail and keep copies of everything.
You're on your own when dealing with the VBA.
If you believe that they're spending any time "to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan", call me. I've got a nice bridge in Alaska I'd like to sell you.