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Working & TDIU Benefits

Can a Veteran Earn an Income While Receiving TDIU Benefits?

Our VA accredited lawyers protect your disability benefits

Even with TDIU benefits, a disabled veteran can find it hard to make ends meet. But is a vet on TDIU allowed to work? And if so, are there limits on the amount the veteran can earn? After all, the name of the benefit — Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability — seems to imply the money is only available because the veteran can’t work. The VA accredited attorneys at Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban want you to know you can work and keep your TDIU benefit, but you have to be careful about the extent of your employment and earnings.

Understanding the VA’s interpretation of gainful employment

Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability is an alternate method the VA uses to allow a veteran to get a 100 percent disability rating. Instead of combining partial disability ratings, which might not reach 100 percent, evaluators look at whether the veteran’s service-connected disabilities prevent him from securing and maintaining employment that is “substantially gainful.” Gainful employment is that which keeps the veteran above the poverty level, which for 2016 meant earning $11,880 a year. Thus, any amount below that amount would not be considered gainful and would not threaten a veteran’s TDIU benefit.

The definition also implies the veteran is capable of maintaining employment, so VA regulations do not count sheltered employment, such as self-employed positions or jobs in a family business, where the veteran essentially cannot be fired. Therefore, there are two ways a veteran can earn money without sacrificing TDIU benefits:

  • Marginal employment — Amounts established by the U.S. Department of Commerce as the poverty threshold for one person.
  • Sheltered employment — When earned income exceeds the poverty threshold, the income still might not constitute gainful employment if the money was earned in a protected environment such as a family business or sheltered workshop.

How can you tell the veteran is working in a sheltered environment? The VA applies three tests:

  • Did the employer grant special accommodations for the vet’s disabilities? (This point is especially pertinent if the business is not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.)
  • If the veteran leaves the business, will the employer hire a person in a similar situation to fill the position?
  • Is there evidence a similarly situated business would not have hired such an employee for the rate the business paid him?

Essentially, these questions are to help discern whether the position at the company was created specifically for the veteran.

Controversies can arise if the VA misconstrues the terms of a veteran’s work and decides the job is substantially gainful employment. At that point, the VA could pull the vet’s TDIU benefits. If that happens, you should consult a VA accredited attorney at our law firm.

Let our accredited veterans’ benefits attorneys protect your TDIU benefits

Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban fights to protect your right to work and keep your TDIU benefits. From anywhere in the country, you can call us at 866-866-VETS, and someone will be ready to talk to you, or you can contact us online. Our firm never charges upfront fees, and there are no attorney fees unless we win your claim for benefits.

  • Thank to Mr. Spencer I was able to get my VA disability claim re-reviewed and given another chance to receive disability. By far he is one of the most professional lawyers I have ever dealt with. So Veterans if you are looking for help with your VA disability claim I would suggest that you hire Macari, Russotto, Spencer, & Balaban. Thanks again for everything.

    — Alfred Daye

  • As a disabled veteran trying to navigate the complexities of the Veterans Administrations regulations, I turned to the law firm of Marcari, Russotto, Spencer and Balaban. They helped me understand what I needed to do and prepared and presented to the VA an excellent presentation of my case. I recommend them for your legal needs.

    — Harry Johnson

  • I was very satisfied with the excellent and professional manner the law firm handled my claim. I highly recommend any veteran who needs help with his or her claim to use Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban P.C. Special thanks to Mr Spencer for being very professional and courteous during the appeal process. Again Thanks to the entire firm for a job well done!

    — Luther Henderson

  • My husband & I highly recommend this law form to any veteran trying to navigate the endless red tape of the VA. We turned to Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban to handle my husband's appeal and could not have been happier. We enjoyed open and consistent communication regarding our case. Any questions we had were answered immediately.

    — Michele DeZayas

  • Amanda Medina-Morales was our point of contact and she kept us up to date on the progress of our case. It was a pleasure and relief knowing that someone truly competent and professional was handling this and fighting for us.

    — Michele DeZayas

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