There are many aspects to a Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) case, as well as aspects of it that can make the process difficult. According to a report by GAO (Bertoni, D. ,2015), the Veterans Administration (VA) can “better ensure unemployability decisions are well supported” for a variety of reasons.
Psychological C&P Exams
Additionally, Psychological C&P Exams have been found to be “unreliable and unfair” to veterans (Worthern, M.D., 2018). There have also been reports that there has been a need for expert opinions which were not necessarily offered in TDIU cases, such as with “combined-effects” (Ilacqua, M.J., 14). It is indicated in each of the articles that all of the above could potentially lead to incorrect decisions being made. The use of a Vocational Expert (VE) may help to ensure the veteran’s service-connected conditions and the impact these conditions have on the workplace are explored more fully.
According to an article by Worthen, M.D. (2018), there are times when Psychological C&P exams have found to be unreliable and “unfair” in part due to veterans due to a high ratio of false positives and false negatives. A false positive would mean that a C&P Exam showed a veteran had a claimed mental disorder when they did not. A false negative would mean that a C&P Exam showed a veteran did not have a mental disorder when they did. This could result in a veteran being denied for TDIU based on a C&P Ex-am that gave an incorrect result. A Vocational Expert would be able to explore the medical files and understand how the symptoms of the disabling condition could impact the workforce and the ability to maintain employment. For example, even if the veteran’s C&P Exam stated that they were not found to have a disabling mental condition, it make be stated in the Exam that the claimant would have an inability to work in proximity to others or maintain pace. These things could be beyond customary tolerances in the workplace, and therefore make the veteran unemployable. A VE would be able to indicate this in a report due to their specialized knowledge of the world of work.
TDIU Claim Cases
According to the GAO report (Bertoni, D., 2015), there is “incomplete guidance” as to how to consider a veteran’s unemployability and, due to this, variability and variation in TDIU claim cases can be found. Per the report, this could involve differing opinions between rating experts as to what would count as demonstrating employability (such as being able to take courses with a Traumatic Brain Injury), how much weight should be given to a veteran receiving social Security Disability, and difficulties in separating service-connected disabling conditions and those conditions that are not service-connected but may be due to age or other disabling conditions. A VE would be able to look at the disabling conditions that are provided in the medical reports and indicate what impact they would have on a veteran’s employability. A VE would also be able to understand and express what the impact of receiving vocational training could have on potential employability would be.
Vocational Expert is Key
A Vocational Expert is an important addition to any TDIU case due to their specialized knowledge and understanding of the workplace, including employer tolerances, what physical and mental requirements there are for certain jobs, and the impact of training or education on employability. The VE is a key part to ensuring that even when there may be discrepancies in the record or vocational aspects of a case have not necessarily been examined completely, the impact of a veteran’s service-connected conditions on the workforce are explored fully.
Worthen, Mark, Psych C&P Exams are Unfair to Veterans (January 15, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3102447 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3102447
Bertoni, D. (2015). Veterans’ disability benefits: Improvements needed to better ensure VA unemployability decisions are well supported. Washington, DC: Government Accountability Office.