You’ve just been rated 100% disabled by the Veterans Affairs. After the excitement of finally having the rating you deserve wears off, you start asking questions. One of the first questions that you might ask is this: It’s a legitimate question – rare is the Veteran that finds themselves sitting on the couch eating bon-bons after being rated 100% disabled.
Some Veterans like to work just for the sake of having something to do.
Other Veterans like to work for non-profits or other organizations that provide a public service …. after all, Veterans as a community are more heavily oriented to public service than many other groups of people.
Yet other Veterans still like to keep doing the job that they did, as they find that the income from even a 100% VA disability rating is not enough to cover all their expense.
Whether the family’s bills, funding college educations for kids and grand-kids, medical bills for spouses and children, or paying off the mountains of debt that have likely built up in the 5-10 years you have probably been waiting for the Veterans Affairs to get off it’s arse and make the right decision….100% disability rating is barely enough money to live off.
So, here’s the answer…and it’s a lawyers FAVORITE answer….It Depends.
Whether a 100 percent Disabled Veteran can work turns on the answer to this question:
Are you getting a 100% schedular rating, or 100% unemployability (aka, TDIU or IU)?
Veterans that Receive 100% Schedular Ratings have NO Limitations on Their Ability to Work.
Veterans are rated for their Veterans Affairs Disability based on a set of tables known as the VA Impairment Rating Tables. These are also known as the “Schedule of Ratings”. So, if your 100% VA Disability Rating comes because you qualify for the 100% rating specified for a single (or combination of multiple) service-connected conditions using the Schedule of Ratings, then you have NO limitations on your ability to work.
Some Veterans think that this doesn’t make sense: after all, if you are 100% disabled, that means you can’t do anything, right? This is one of the problems with the VA Disability Compensation system – for years, we have been led to believe that the percentage of rating equates to a percentage of how much our body is disabled.
In reality, the percentage of your disability rating means that you have had that percentage of interference with your ability to earn an income.
So a Veteran whose service connected condition equates to a 100% disability rating is not – in the eyes of the law – 100% disabled. Instead, in the eyes of the law, the Veteran’s ability to earn an income has been 100% interfered with.
Bottom line, if you are rated 100% using the Schedule of Ratings, or the Impairment Ratings Table – whether it is for one condition or multiple conditions – than you can work as much or as little as you want.
In theory, you could make $1,000,000 a minute and still collect a 100% Veterans Affairs Disability Schedular Rating. Of course, to make that kind of money, you’d probably have to become a Congressional representative, and put your hand into the pocket of some pretty unseemly political and lobbying organizations. But the point is the same: Veterans that Receive 100% Schedular Ratings have NO Limitations on Their Ability to Work or earn an income.
Can a Veteran Earn an Income while Receiving VA TDIU Benefits?
To answer this question, we need only look to the law.
- For those of you that don’t know what TDIU is, I encourage you to read this post to get a basic understanding of the 2 types of TDIU Benefits.
- To those of you trying to win your VA TDIU Claim, I encourage you to consider whether a copy of the VA TDIU Field Manual, or the VA TDIU eBook Package – will help you understand and improve your VA TDIU Claims.
38 C.F.R. §4.16(a) – the section of the Code of Federal Regulations that states the requirements for eligibility for TDIU Benefits, states the following:
Total disability ratings for compensation may be assigned, where the schedular rating is less than total, when the disabled person is, in the judgment of the rating agency, unable to secure or follow a substantially gainful occupation as a result of service-connected disabilities.
Now, as I’ve discussed before on the Veterans Law Blog, the law does not clearly define what substantially gainful occupation is. But the law DOES define what Substantially Gainful employment IS NOT.