Veterans have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The least they deserve is to be properly compensated. Many veterans return home with life-altering disabilities that prevent them from sustaining a full-time job. However, there are several options for disabled veterans when it comes to benefits and reentering the workforce.
Can a Veteran Work and Collect TDIU Benefits?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is responsible for determining the severity of a veteran’s disability and subsequently how much money they will receive as part of their VA disability benefits. A veteran’s disability is rated on a scale from 10 to 100 percent. Depending on the severity of the disability or disabilities, a veteran may also qualify for Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU). The difference between these two is whether the veteran’s disability refrains them from working. If a veteran is receiving TDIU benefits, they are technically not allowed to work. However, there are exceptions to the rule.
First, a veteran with TDIU benefits can work if they are not earning gainful employment. The VA determines what is gainful employment vs. what is marginal employment according to the Census Bureau’s definition of the poverty level. If a veteran earns enough to fall over the poverty line, they are earning gainful employment. If they earn a small enough amount to fall under the poverty line, they are earning marginal employment. Even veterans with TDIU benefits, who are rendered unable to work, are allowed to earn marginal employment.
Second, it depends on the type of environment the veteran is working in. Even if they are earning gainful employment, a veteran with TDIU benefits can have a job if it is considered a Protected Work Environment or if they are working for a family business.
What Is a Protected Work Environment?
The VA has not technically specified what they consider to be a protected work environment. In general, a protected work environment is considered to be that with exceptional accommodations made for the veteran with the knowledge that they are unable to perform the job in the same way as other employees. For example, an employer may have a relaxed attendance policy for a veteran employee with a disability. The VA can decide whether a work environment is protected on a facts-found basis. This means that the VA will take into consideration the veteran’s disability, the way it affects their ability to work, and the accommodations made by the employer.