As TDIU Grows Among Older Vets, GAO Considers Revising the Benefit

In a recent report to the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, the Government Accountability Office called for reforms that may eliminate disability benefits for older veterans. The GAO noted that the number of veterans receiving Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits increased 22 percent from fiscal year 2009 to 2013, and in the subgroup of veterans 65 years of age or older, usage increased 73 percent. Moreover, new beneficiaries in 2013 included 2,800 vets age 75 and older, of whom 400 were age 90 and older. These enrollments have led the GAO to question what is meant by “unemployability” when referring to individuals beyond the traditional age of retirement.

The GAO report was critical of VA procedures that cannot that ensure consistency in rating vets for disability. The GAO cited the lack of internal control standards and inadequate guidance on determining unemployability. The GAO found that disagreement on which factors VA rating specialists needed to consider, and how much weight to give various factors, could lead two rating specialists to arrive at opposite conclusions about an applicant’s eligibility. The GAO offered several options for the VA to revise its eligibility standards, including an age cap of 65 years.

As veterans’ benefits attorneys, we are very concerned that ageism is at play in these determinations. As Americans live longer, the idea of retirement at 65 becomes more and more of a quaint notion. In fact, whenever members of Congress discuss reforming Social Security, there is always discussion about raising the retirement age to 67 or 68 years. We are told that retirement at 65 is obsolete. So, it seems entirely contradictory for one arm of the government to say seniors don’t need Social Security benefits because they are vital, youthful and productive, while another government office claims they don’t need disability benefits because they’d be too old to work anyway.

If you’re having trouble getting your VA benefits approved, Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban can help. Our nationwide law firm is focused on getting veterans the benefits they so richly deserve. To learn more, call us at 866-866-VETS or contact our office online.

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