Qualifying for TDIU in a Protected Work Environment

The concept of TDIU itself can cause a lot of confusion.  This article discusses one confusing part of TDIU analysis which is “protected work environment”

As I discussed in a recent article, you can sometimes work and still qualify for TDIU benefits.  We know that concept as marginal employment.

That article on marginal employment discussed the general rule that you cannot work and draw TDIU benefits.  But, it focused on the other marginal employment exception which allows you potentially to qualify for TDIU when you earn less than the federally-designated poverty threshold.

Light duty job 2 Generally, you cannot qualify for a TDIU rating if you earn over that amount.  But, marginal employment provides another exception to this rule.  That exception, known as “protected work environment”, allows you to qualify for TDIU when your earnings exceed the federally-designated poverty threshold.

What is marginal employment within a “protected work environment”?

The federally designated poverty threshold is very low.  Many veterans earn more than that amount even if they have extreme difficulty working.

The good news is that these veterans can potentially still qualify for TDIU.  This exception focuses on what is known as a “protected work environment” or a “sheltered work environment”.  If you meet this exception, you potentially can still draw unemployability benefits regardless of the amount you earn.

What is a protected work environment?

The VA has regulations which address what a “protected work environment” is.  The VA regulation is 38 CFR 4.16.  Under this regulation, whether something qualifies as a “protected work environment” is a very fact-intensive inquiry.

This inquiry basically looks at whether the veteran is in a very specialized or unique position.  While a veteran may have a job earning good money, sometimes that veteran may not normally be able to go out in the national economy and earn that type of money.

An example of a protected work environment

The best example is probably a veteran who has service-connected disabilities and works in a family business.  Suppose he works for his father who owns the company.  Also, suppose this veteran has severe PTSD.

This veteran has days where he simply just cannot come in.  This happens quite often, yet his father keeps him on a salary.  The veteran receives a full paycheck every week whether he comes in or not

If this veteran went out in the regular economy, no employer who did not have a special relationship with that veteran would pay him that full salary to work just on the days that the veteran was able to work.

PTSD counseling Are family businesses the only type of protected work environments or sheltered employment?

Many protected work environment situations are family businesses.  However, veterans can qualify for the protected work environment exception outside of a family business-type situation.

Some specialized programs for veterans or disabled persons allow people to earn full pay even though they are not able to do the full amount of work as a non-disabled person would.  Again, no hard and fast rule exists for these situations.  It becomes a very fact-intensive inquiry.

Know that VA will look at sheltered employment situation with a critical eye.  VA may be very skeptical.  So, you likely will have to establish that you have a specialized situation.

You probably will need evidence from your employer that they would not make these accommodations for everyone.  Evidence that establishes the uniqueness of your situation will probably help.

What if I have other questions about protected work environment?

The process of dealing with VA can cause confusion and frustration.  TDIU is probably one of the more difficult concepts within that VA process.

Our firm tries to provide free information to veterans through our website and our veterans benefits channel on YouTube.  Many veterans still need help with particular questions that have to do with the specific facts of their claims.

We provide free consultations to veterans so that they can try to get answers to these questions.  This article provides more information about how a free consultation works.  If you would like to set one up, just call our office at (770) 214-8885 or complete and submit the form on this page.

Travis Studdard is an attorney who focuses on representing veterans in VA disability compensation claims.  He regularly writes about issues that are important to veterans and their families.

You can subscribe to his Veterans Disability channel on YouTube.

Thank you Jason and Tina for everything you've done. Much appreciated. Great law firm! Great results!! Thank you!!! (Austin and Valerie)Valerie Mellinger
Travis and the team working on my VA claim are awesome. I’m happy with their integrity and diligence on working on my claim.Chris “Greybeard” Mullennix
I can't express enough how great it was to work with Perkins Studdard. They are extremely knowledgeable, professional and keep you aware of everything happening with your case. Very friendly from the front office to Mr. Perkins. I would HIGHLY recommend Perkins Studdard!James Strickland
I recommend Travis for an Veteran that has been dealing with constant denial with claims. He also , cover cost for my nexus letter when I ran into financial troubles , that helped me win my case.edwin Cook
I highly recommend Travis Studdard to represent anyone looking to help with VA claims. The VA is very difficult to deal with when attempting to get benefits from service connected injuries, at least that's my experience. Travis and his team knows the VA system and the legal procedures to help you get what you deserve. Travis was kind and passionate with me throughout this process and therefore, I highly recommend this law firm to represent DAV's.Terry Hembree
Such an awesome team. They spoke to me like a person and helped me through every decision with knowledge.Kevin Collett
Highly recommend this firm. Did exactly what they said they were going to and fairly timely. The VA is sometimes extremely difficult to navigate but this took all the leg work away from me and got me the result I thought was fair.Andrew Boone
Amazing staff, very informed along with excellent communication. Within just a few weeks of work, Mr Studdard was able to make things happen that normally take years! Highly recommendJacob Sylvester
Perkins Studdard LLC is the place you need to be if you have a Workers Comp case going on! Mr. Jason Perkins and his staff get the results that you need. They work with you and fight for you.Coming from another lawyer my husband and I were really surprised and appreciated the communication and honesty and understanding throughout the entire process. My husband loves the videos because they held so much information and helped him understand what what was going on. Thank you so much for representing us!!!Deborah Tompkins
I highly recommend Jason Perkins and the Team at Perkins and Studdard. Jason did a wonderful job on my case and actually got me better results than what I was hoping for. He was always so patient with me and made sure I was understanding every process in my case. He never seemed to mind me asking questions and always gave me straightforward answers. My phone calls to him or his staff were promptly answered or returned and everyone was always so helpful, personable, and respectful. He kept me updated on all the details of my case and sent helpful videos for me to review that were very informative.Dru Vaughn

Related Posts


Font Size: