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.

Rita BarnesRita Barnes
00:03 20 Jan 22
This is a great group of people who really care about your well being. They all treated me as though I was family and helped me with my work comp case in more ways than the average would have.Thank you Jason and Thank you Tina! For doing an awesome job.
Cortex ButlerCortex Butler
18:09 29 Dec 21
I am a Veteran of United States Air Force and was awarded my first 30% in 1996 and have been fighting for my rating for 26 years I came to Perkins and Studdard in 2019 while my mom was in a terrible incident and was given to much anesthesia and through GODS Grace she was spared her life, She is disabled since 2018 and I have been struggling with my life and issues and yet I didn’t call the law firm every 10 minutes or call being rude anytime, I mentioned this as I got to know Jessica more than just a phone call and Mr Studdard was always available when not working on other cases or in court, They always called back and Never had to do a call back, My Review is Simple in Life there peaks and valleys and it doesn’t stop because you have issues, Perkins & Studdard took my case in 2019 in 2021 I received my 100% from VA, I Was Never Rude, I was Never Promised Success, I Was Never Lied too and I was Always Treated with Respect, Friendliness, and Kindness the Real Stuff not a (Money Thing) If You want a firm that Cares about the Client and will work on your case even through a pandemic, Will not lie, will not promise anything will communicate your case and will Give you their Best ALWAYS THIS IS THE Best Law Firm for VETS HANDS DOWN Perkins and Studdard THERE IS NO OTHER 100% we had 5 calls Total Case That’s Taking Care Of Business
annetteMomma nokesannetteMomma nokes
14:29 12 Sep 16
Jason and his paralegal Lisa were on point and on top of their game when it came to handling my worker's comp. injury case. I tried going it alone and the insurance carrier pushed me around. They denied extra physical therapy. They denied injections the doctor recommended to ease my pain. When I turned my case over to Jason things turned around, QUICK. They were at all times attentive and on top of my case. I cannot recommend Jason and his staff enough. If you are hurt at work, this is the firm you want on YOUR side.
Sheila KirklinSheila Kirklin
23:11 12 May 16
Jason Perkins, was my lawyer in a workers comp. case, my case has settled now, and I am very happy for all Jason and his office hard work on my case, he was always there to help me out with any questions that I had or help I needed. Jason is a excellent lawyer and if I ever need another one I would only go to Perkins,Because I believe they would be able to help me in any situation I am in need of..
Anna PabonAnna Pabon
23:16 13 Sep 15
I recommend Perkins Law Firm. Everyone I came in contact with there was very nice. Kim was very helpful and any time I had a question she made sure I got an answer. Ann Margaret really took the time to explain things to me.

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