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Can I Appeal My TDIU Decision if I Have a Full-Time Job?

Posted by Berry Law on February 11, 2022 in TDIU

Some disabilities for Veterans are so debilitating that they cannot maintain steady work to provide for themselves and their families. However, just because a disability makes a Veteran unable to work does not always mean that they will receive a 100 percent disability rating.

There are many reasons that a Veteran will not always receive a total disability rating. However, many Veterans who want the benefits of a total disability rating but do not receive it apply for total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU). If a Veteran receives this, they can receive the benefits as if they had a 100 percent disability rating.

There tend to be a lot of myths and misconceptions regarding TDIU and what is required to qualify. This article dispels some of those myths and explains everything you need to know about TDIU.

What Is TDIU?

TDIU is a complete disability rating for Veterans who cannot maintain stable employment because of a service-connected disability.

As stated above, the benefits that a Veteran receives with TDIU are the same as if they had a 100 percent disability rating. The benefits can be temporary or permanent, but generally, if the disability is permanent, so will the TDIU.

What Are the Conditions for Receiving TDIU?

As with all claims made by the VA, certain conditions have to be met for a Veteran to receive TDIU.

For one, the Veteran must:

  • Have at least one service-connected disability that is at least 60 percent or higher, or
  • Heve two or more service-connected disabilities with at least one of 40 percent or higher, with a combined rating of at least 70 percent or more. 

The Veteran also has to have been honorably discharged from the military. If they were dishonorably discharged, their claim will be likely denied. Finally, the Veteran must prove that their service-connected disability affects their ability to keep substantial employment.

Can I Work if I Receive TDIU?

One of the myths surrounding TDIU is that a Veteran cannot work if they receive it. Because the name includes the word “unemployed,” the idea is that if you work, then you cannot receive TDIU.

The key is to understand what the VA means by a steady job. A steady job, according to the VA, is substantially gainful employment. Working odd-end jobs does not count as a steady job. Even marginal jobs, which are jobs that do not meet the poverty level of around $11-12k a year, do not qualify as steady jobs.

If you work an odd job or a marginal job, you can likely keep your TDIU benefits.

In some cases, a Veteran can make more money than the poverty line and still keep their TDIU benefits. This is because of a protected work environment in which the employer is willing to make accommodations that excuse a Veteran from certain duties without penalty. To prove that a Veteran works in a protected work environment, they can use documents such as W-2s or pay stubs.

Overall, there are ways in which Veterans can receive the benefits of TDIU and make money, even if they make more than the poverty level. However, the Veteran will have to find an employer willing to make certain accommodations and show that even though they work, they are still eligible for TDIU. This will take a little more work and evidence overall. 

Every Veteran should not assume that they can make this happen. Scenarios when it does work out tend to be the exception rather than the norm.

Appealing VA Decisions

Though it requires more time and work, appeals are a normal part of getting the benefits that you, as a Veteran, deserve.

Thankfully, as a Veteran, you can always appeal a decision made by the VA. 

Before you begin appealing a decision, reach out to an attorney who has experience dealing with VA affairs. Often, Veterans are not experienced in the legal matters in which the VA operates. The VA looks for certain types of evidence when making decisions. Sometimes even the smallest change in the language or wording of a claim or appeal can drastically change the outcome. A professional who has access to this information will be invaluable. 

At Berry Law, our team is made of Veterans who are experienced in dealing with VA affairs. Along with that, we are also VA certified, so we know the ins and outs to help Veterans get the results they are looking for.

Options for Appealing a VA Decision

When you appeal a VA decision, you have a few options to choose from. Certain options are better than others, depending on what you are appealing and why. In these scenarios, it is helpful to have assistance from an attorney since they will guide you to the best decision.

The first option is asking a higher-level official in the VA to look over the evidence that you have already provided. Sometimes, if a lower-level official goes through a claim, they may overlook important information that otherwise would have determined a different outcome. 

The second is to provide additional evidence that may have been previously missing. For example, when appealing a TDIU decision, this may be the best option. Often, the VA lacks the evidence that they need to give you benefits for TDIU, even if you work full time. In this circumstance, you may need to provide substantial evidence that shows that you work in a protected work environment. Getting documents for this will prove that though you work, it is not considered a steady job by the VA. 

Finally, you can appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals and select the best route to present your appeal to the board.

It is best to have a plan of action in all of these scenarios. The VA can be very particular in how it makes decisions, given that there are certain rules and regulations by which it must abide.

This is why it is crucial to have an attorney represent you and help gather all of the necessary information to make the VA change its initial decision. If you go through the process alone, you are not only creating more work for yourself, but also you’re increasing the possibility of not getting the results that you want.

Take the time to find a reputable attorney so that when you are ready to go through the appeal process, you will be able to take some of the burden off and find success.

Conclusion

Navigating the world of VA rules and regulations when making a claim or an appeal can be frustrating. There are many rules and regulations, and sometimes these regulations are the very obstacles that get in the way of a Veteran receiving the benefits they deserve.

Thankfully, you can appeal any decision that the VA makes, even if it is regarding TDIU. When making an appeal, the best thing to do is to contact an attorney at Berry Law to help plan the best course of action to get the compensation you deserve.

For any questions that you may have or information that you need regarding VA claims and appeals, visit our website.

Sources:

Individual Unemployability: Understanding the basics | Veterans Affairs

Types of discharge | Vet Verify 

VA Individual Unemployability If You Can’t Work | Veterans Affairs