Many veterans have one or more service-connected disabilities that make it very difficult to work. Often, these veterans struggle to try to maintain a job despite these disabilities. Many times, these veterans will end up quitting a job because they just cannot continue working.
I talk to many veterans who ask me this question after quitting. The short answer is that you can still qualify for TDIU benefits if you quit your job. But, quitting your job could make it more difficult to get TDIU benefits.
I see many cases where veterans get fired because of issues associated with service-connected disabilities. This often happens in the PTSD context when an individual has difficulty functioning in that particular work environment. This can also happen with back injuries and other physical conditions when those conditions affect the veteran’s ability to perform a particular job.
Other times, veterans are not terminated by their employer. Some employers try to be rather understanding and accommodate veterans with service-connected disabilities, even though they may not be producing as much as other employees in the same position.
Sometimes, even though the employer does not end the employment relationship, the veteran simply cannot continue on working anymore. Many veterans in this situation resign their position and then seek TDIU benefits because they cannot continue working.
What if VA denies my claim because I voluntarily quit my job?
I have seen situations where VA has denied a veteran’s TDIU claim on the basis that the veteran voluntarily quit their position with the employer. Voluntarily quitting a position is not a disqualifying factor for TDIU.
All veterans needs to show for TDIU purposes is that they are unable to get or keep substantial gainful employment. There is nothing in the TDIU standard that says it must be the employer’s choice to end the relationship. If you’re denied by VA because you quit your position, then that’s something you would want to consider appealing.
This does not mean that you should choose to quit your job so that you can improve your chances of getting TDIU. You will need to have good reasons for stopping your work.
Could the reason I gave for quitting my job affect my TDIU claim?
Many veterans do not always come totally clean with their employer when they resign from a job. Many times, when someone is leaving a position, they say one of the following things:
- “I’m leaving for a better opportunity”
- “I want to try something new”
- “I’m retiring”
I have seen veterans who were simply unable to continue doing their jobs says all of these things. These veterans had to hang it up. They could not keep continuing on in their work because of their service-connected disabilities.
But they did not have a conversation with their employer where they explained the real reason they were stopping working. I understand that it can be difficult to have this honest conversation. Many people do not want to because they do not have a very close relationship with that employer or that supervisor. Other people do not feel like it is anybody else’s business sometimes.
There are a lot of disabilities that we do not want others to know about. Sometimes, veterans are embarrassed. They have been able to hide their depression, their PTSD, or other disability; and they do not want anyone that they work with to know about it.
VA will contact that employer. One of the questions that VA will ask is why the employment ended.
If you did not give your employer a reason to connect the end of your employment with your service connected disabilities, then your employer will have no real basis for saying that you quitting is related to your service-connected disabilities. That may certainly hurt you in trying to prove TDIU.
If you lead your employer down a different path and do not giving them an honest reason for why you are leaving, then that can come back later and hurt you in your VA disability claim. So, it is usually best to be as open and honest as you can with your employer about the reasons you are having to stop working. Give them specifics about why you re not longer able to continue working
There may be situations where an employer values you so much and has some flexibility. They may be able to accommodate you. They may be able to modify your position with the company so that you’re able to continue working. If this happens, there are obviously huge benefits to you from a financial standpoint if you can continue on with your employment and still receive some form of VA disability benefits, even if it’s not TDIU.
Should I quit my job and file for TDIU?
That depends. If you can continue doing your job, you will probably want to keep doing that. I would not suggest that you quit a job you can perform to try to improve your chances of qualifying for TDIU.
TDIU is a very difficult and complicated type of VA disability claim. Many veterans find themselves in a position where they cannot obtain and maintain employment because of their service-connected disabilities. But, if you can keep working at a job you can perform, you probably should keep doing that.