The short answer is yes, but with stipulations. While TDIU stands for Total Disability Individual Unemployment, receiving TDIU does not require that a veteran stop working altogether in order to be eligible.
In order to be eligible, both requirements below must be met:
- The veteran has at least 1 service-connected disability rated at 60% or more disabling, or 2 or more service-connected disabilities—with at least 1 rated at 40% or more disabling and a combined rating of 70% or more—and
- The veteran can’t hold down a steady job that supports them financially (known as substantially gainful employment) because of their service-connected disability. Odd jobs (marginal employment) don’t count.
Substantially Gainful Employment
In order to receive TDIU, the veteran can not be able to sustain “substantially gainful employment.” According to the VA, substantially gainful employment is “employment that is ordinarily followed by the nondisabled to earn their livelihood with earnings common to the particular occupation in the community where the veteran resides.” In short, work that a non-disabled person can do, at the wage a non-disabled person might get for the same work.
Substantially gainful employment usually means a living wage that exceeds the amount established by the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, as the poverty threshold for one person.
On the other hand, if a veteran’s employment is considered marginal, the veteran can be employed and still receive TDIU benefits. The VA defines marginal employment as such that the “veteran’s earned annual income does not exceed the amount established by the U.S. Veteran’s earned annual income does not exceed the amount established by the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, as the poverty threshold for one person.” Every year, the federal government sets the poverty threshold. The thresholds have been, for the last three years:
2019 – $12,490
2020 – $12,760
2021 – $12,880
Marginal employment can also include employment where the veteran is earning more than the poverty threshold. Employment in a “protected environment, such as a family business or sheltered workshop.” The VA has, unfortunately, never defined what the terms “protected” or “sheltered” environment mean, so it truly becomes a case-by-case analysis of all of the evidence presented.
Contact the Veterans Advocacy Lawyer Andrew P. Gross
If you have questions about what kinds of employment can be maintained while receiving TDIU, contact a seasoned Veterans Advocacy lawyer at the Law Office of Andrew P. Gross.