As a disabled Veteran, you are entitled to certain benefits in exchange for your honorable service to our country. However, even if your disabilities don’t add up to a VA disability rating of 100%, you may be entitled to Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU).
However, can you work if you receive TDIU? What if you can hold down a job in some capacity? Let’s explore how employment affects TDIU and your total benefits in more detail.
For specific advice regarding your case, contact an experienced VA benefits attorney as soon as possible.
Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) is a special rating assigned to Veterans whose collective conditions, disabilities, or injuries may not normally add up to a 100% disability rating but who receive disability benefits as if they were rated 100% anyway.
TDIU is normally reserved for Veterans whose disabilities prevent them from acquiring and maintaining “substantially gainful employment.” That’s any employment that lets a Veteran earn a livelihood with earnings that are common to a specific occupation or to a community where the Veteran lives.
TDIU is intended to compensate Veterans whose disabilities may be out of the ordinary or unique and that limit or prevent them from working despite not being rated as highly as other disabilities.
You can only receive TDIU in specific circumstances:
Generally, no. Again, TDIU is intended to compensate Veterans whose disabilities prevent them from maintaining employment and receiving normal income, despite their ratings not reaching the 100% total disability rating normally required for such compensation. However, there are some exceptions.
Marginal employment, according to the VA, is any employment that doesn’t provide a meaningful salary. More specifically, marginal employment is any employment that doesn’t provide a salary above the poverty level.
Regardless, you can only receive TDIU if your employment results in such poor compensation that it’s below the poverty line, and you cannot acquire other employment to bring your total income above the poverty line.
You may earn higher wages if your position qualifies as a protected work environment. The VA doesn’t use a single definition to determine whether a Veteran has a protected work environment designation. The general rule of thumb is that the position must offer accommodations above and beyond what’s required for a disabled person. These can include:
Protected work environments may include sheltered workshops or family businesses. A sheltered workshop can be a family business or any other unique working arrangement, such as a business run by a close personal friend or a non-profit serving Veterans or disabled persons. Additionally, running a self-employment business out of your garage or home office may count as a protected work environment, depending on the work you perform.
Not necessarily. If your circumstances change and you find you are able to maintain substantially gainful employment, you may no longer qualify for TDIU.
For example, say you use a GI Bill to return to school and obtain education and training for a job that accommodates your disability. In that case, you wouldn’t qualify for TDIU after finding a job. Instead, the VA may assign a lower percentage rating that only considers the severity of your symptoms.
Additionally, the VA may award temporary TDIU benefits from the beginning. For instance, if you required extended hospitalization or had to undergo surgery shortly before your discharge, the VA may award TDIU benefits for only six months or fewer. You will likely receive a lower percentage rating after the TDIU expires.
Keep in mind that TDIU benefits do not have to be just for physical disabilities. You may receive TDIU benefits if you have a qualifying mental health condition, such as PTSD or depression.
PTSD can make it difficult for Veterans to tolerate noise and crowds, and Veterans may exhibit personality disorders, such as angry outbursts and verbal abuse toward co-workers. Depression can also affect a Veteran’s ability to work by causing fatigue and difficulty concentrating. Depression may also make a Veteran feel as though they are overwhelmed, and they may struggle to maintain a set schedule.
No. Typically, Veterans receiving TDIU have one service-connected disability with a rating of 60% or more. However, they may also have two or more service-connected disabilities with a combined disability rating of 70%, for instance.
Moreover, Veterans may qualify for TDIU if they have an approved extraschedular condition that prevents them from working but they don’t meet the standard rating thresholds. Extraschedular considerations include things like frequent hospitalization or if back pain or other issues prevent the Veteran from working.
If you still have questions about TDIU and whether you qualify for these benefits, reach out to an experienced VA benefits attorney for help. The entire process can be complex from start to finish, and you need a knowledgeable legal professional on your side to not only answer your questions but also assist you throughout the process to increase your chances of getting the favorable outcomes you expect and deserve.
When you contact Berry Law, you’ll get the answers you need and sound legal counsel no matter where you are in the disability benefits process. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Our monthly newsletter features about important and up-to-date veterans' law news, keeping you informed about the changes that matter.