Does Working Prevent Me From Receiving VA TDIU Benefits?

TDIU benefits qualify veterans for a 100 percent rating.  It is very difficult to reach a 100 percent rating without TDIU.  A 100 percent rating provides a large increase in the monthly disability benefit compared to a 90 percent or lower rating.

But, can you get a 100 percent TDIU rating if you are still working? Since TDIU focuses on “unemployability”, you might think that you could not.

Senior man using laptop computer with headache and eyes closed Where do I find the VA regulations that discuss a 100% TDIU rating?

38 CFR 4.16 is the part of the Code of Federal Regulations that deals with individual unemployability claims.  The general rule is that you cannot work and receive TDIU benefits.

But, if you look in 38 CFR 4.16, you would find out that there are some exceptions to this general rule.  Toward the second half of that regulation, you will find the exceptions.  some exceptions to the general rule which is you can’t work and draw TDIU benefits.

What is the exception about “marginal employment”?

So here’s one way you can do that with limited earnings. The rule says that marginal employment shall not be considered substantially gainful employment.  The VA M21-1MR manual defines “substantially gainful employment” as:

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.

That definition sounds like a bunch of legalese.  So, what does it mean in layman’s terms.  Basically, it means typical work used to earn a living where the veteran lives.

With regard to marginal employment, 38 CFR 4.16 gives you a couple of examples of what qualifies.  One of those examples is marginal employment based on limited earnings.

The regulation says that marginal employment shall be deemed to exist when a veteran’s earned annual income does not exceed the amount established by the Department of Commerce and the Bureau of Census within the Commerce Department.  Basically, you can still earn money and draw your full TDIU benefits if you are below the poverty threshold.

How much can I earn and still receive TDIU benefits?

Benefits calculation
Black calculator with the printed receipt of allowance

To give you an idea, a veteran can earn $13,465 in 2020 according to the data figures that we have from the Census Bureau.  If you’re earning under that amount, you can still draw your full TDIU benefit.

Of course, the poverty threshold can change each year, so you need to check for updated numbers.

The rationale for still qualifying for TDIU through marginal employment is that you are not a full member of the workforce if your earnings are that low. Because of that, VA should not penalize you for trying to get out there and do what you can.

Do I still have to prove the other requirements of TDIU if I meet the “marginal employment” standard?

Yes.  You must still prove the other TDIU requirements.  “Marginal employment” only provides an exception to the requirement that you must demonstrate that you are not substantially gainfully employed.

However, this exception can provide great benefits to veterans who have significant difficulty working as a result of their service connected medical conditions.  If you find yourself in this situation, you should consider filing for TDIU benefits.

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.

I'm so thankful and grateful for all the hard work Jason, Tina and Liz did for me. They went above and beyond to get the best outcome for me. They took the to explain everything that was going on with my case again I'm so thankful grateful and happy with the outcome of my workers comp case.Adrian Adams
First off, I must say thank you again to the office of Perkins Studdard. I appreciate all the hard work and dedication your office has shown to achieve a successful and happy outcome. You have forever changed my family’s life! Also, I wanted to give a special shoutout to Jessica Hyatt for her excellent attitude, advice, and overall professionalism throughout every step of this process. This journey has finally been complete after more than a decade of being denied and almost giving up. However, two of my old coworkers advised me that the office of Perkins Studdard had also successfully helped them achieve their proper rating too. Needless to say, this has been one of my best decisions in life. I can now sleep a little better and stress free knowing I finally got what I deserved all along. Once again, thank you for everything! And shoutout to Travis Studdard, “we did it.” Respectfully, Jonathon FloresJonathon Flores
My family and I are so grateful for Jason Perkins and his team. Jason explains thing's to detail and walks you through every step of your case. I would highly recommend Perkins Studdard for your legal needs. Thank you so much Jason and Tina!Chapin & Lea Anne Warner
The best I know for workers comp attorney'sDenise Williams
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I would like to thank the law firm of Perkins-Studdard (Travis) and his team, for performing such an outstanding job, at every possible level, during my recent situation with the VA Disability Claims . From the first time I called and spoke with Mr Studdard with an overview of my situation, until the final settlement was executed (successfully I may add), I always felt that I was in good hands with this firm. Everyone in the office, Jessica, and April were responsive, approachable, knowledgeable, good listeners, and extremely professional. Mr. Studdard was realistic of the circumstances and of the potential difficult process that would lay ahead, should I proceed. I can’t say enough about Travis, and I will always be thankful to him. Travis was committed, and he instilled a real sense of confidence during both the highs and the lows. He ultimately prevailed and the outcome was very much in my favor. Of course, each case is different on its own merits and one can never predict how things ultimately will turn out. All I know is that the settlement far exceeded my expectation. Mr. Studdard has been a blessing to me. I strongly recommend that anyone who would find themselves in a similar legal situation with the VA to contact Law Offices of Perkins Studdard for a consultation. It was a very positive experience given the circumstances. Thank you again, I shall forever be in your debt.Concetta Hogg
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