It is possible to receive VA disability and continue working
Are you unsure about working with a VA disability rating? The process can be confusing because you could have a schedular rating and a TDIU rating, both of which mean different things and dictate your employment eligibility. The gist is that in most cases, the laws permit you to work if you’re receiving VA disability. Here’s some information on situations where you can and can’t work while receiving VA disability benefits.
The different types of disability ratings
Your ability to work depends on how you’ve reached your disability rating and the type of rating you have. A schedular rating ranges from 0% to 100%, with the number corresponding with the severity of your service-related injury or illness. The Department of Veterans Affairs has a set list of criteria that you must meet to reach each level of compensation.
In some cases, you can qualify for Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU). To be eligible for this, you must have a schedular rating of 60% or higher, or 70% or higher if you have two or more conditions, and are unable to maintain gainful employment because of your injury or illness.
You could be eligible for compensation equal to a 100% schedular rating, even if your combined schedular rating is below 100% because of your TDIU rating.
In short, your schedular rating looks at the injury or injuries, while your TDIU considers how much your condition is affecting your life and if it prevents you from being gainfully employed.
Employment with a schedular disability rating
Since your schedular rating doesn’t directly judge your ability to work, you can still work, even if you have a 100% rating. Nothing is preventing you from seeking employment, so if you’re ready to get out there and find a job, you can legally do so.
Getting a job with a TDIU rating
If you have a TDIU rating, you will be considered 100% unemployable. That’s because you’re receiving compensation based on your inability to maintain gainful employment, even if your disability rating isn’t 100%.
A TDIU rating is awarded based on the veteran’s ability to earn more than the annual poverty threshold. If a service-connected condition prevents you from reaching the federal poverty threshold in any given year, you could be eligible for TDIU benefits.
In short, if you have a rating of 100% with a TDIU, you cannot work.
What’s the poverty threshold?
Where it gets tricky is determining the poverty threshold, because it’s always changing based on inflation and other economic factors.
In 2021, the poverty threshold for a single person, which is what the VA uses, is $12,880 in the lower 48 states and DC, $16,090 in Alaska, and $14,820 in Hawaii.
Filing your claim
Those who find that they’re unable to find gainful employment because of a service-connected condition might be eligible for TDIU benefits. The process begins by applying for a schedular rating, which will determine the severity of your disability. If your disability rating is 60% or above, and your condition is preventing you from working full-time, it might be time to consider TDIU benefits.