Worried Veteran With Head on His HandTotal Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits allow a Veteran to receive cash compensation at the rate of someone who is considered 100% disabled—even though their service-connected disabilities would not otherwise qualify. TDIU provides a financial lifeline for Veterans throughout the United States with disabilities that make it hard to work, but many others are unaware that they could still qualify even if they are currently working.

Working While Receiving TDIU

TDIU benefits are for those who are unable to maintain substantially gainful employment, but this doesn’t necessarily mean a Veteran can’t work at all. Substantially gainful employment is defined as earning more than a poverty-level wage, so a seriously disabled Veteran who works minimal hours in a low paying job is likely to still qualify.

The other way a Veteran can receive TDIU while still working is if their current employment is considered a protected work environment. This will allow for TDIU benefits regardless of income.

Elements of a Protected Work Environment

There is no single definition the VA uses to determine whether a Veteran has a protected work environment. However, it’s generally understood that this is an environment where accommodations are being made above and beyond what is legally required for a person with a disability. For example:

  • You have lower productivity standards than your peers.
  • You are excused from job-related duties that would normally be part of your position.
  • Behavioral issues, such as being rude to a coworker, are tolerated without penalty.
  • You don’t need permission to take breaks, leave early, or be late.
  • Extended absences are permitted regardless of the reason.
  • You can skip trainings or meetings that other employees have to attend.

Protected work environments often involve working for a family-owned business, for a close personal friend, or for a non-profit that serves Veterans or people with disabilities. Self-employment may also be considered a type of protected work environment, depending upon the work that is performed.

Let Us Help You Get the Benefits You Deserve

Contact the office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss how we can help you receive the TDIU benefits you need and deserve. Our Veteran’s benefits attorneys are committed to protecting the rights of those who’ve bravely served our country.


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