Medications and medical treatments change and evolve constantly, so a wonder therapy might soon restore a veteran’s ability to do meaningful work. If that happens, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) could roll back their TDIU disability benefits if they begin earning a substantial income from non-investment-related activities.
Usually, working part-time won’t trigger a re-examination of disability ratings. Here’s how long VA unemployability should last.
Veterans can work as long it’s not considered “gainful employment.” That usually means earning a salary equivalent to the pay for a full-time in your field. Generally, the litmus test is earning more than the poverty level in your area. That doesn’t mean you’ll be disqualified for VA benefits if you work.
If you are earning substantially more than the poverty level, you should take a hard look at whether job satisfaction and a higher income outweigh your regular disability benefits, family benefits, health insurance benefits for your dependents, and substantial veterans’ benefits. There’s also the possibility of relapsing or becoming unable to continue full-time work after a while.
The VA has made enormous strides in helping disabled veterans to return to a reasonably normal life. For many decades, the agency was criticized for providing poor care to the nation’s vets, but that began to change in the late 1990s. People and the agency rallied to support veterans from the first Gulf War after the bitter defeat in Vietnam.
Raising awareness of veterans’ hurdles has also led to more job opportunities for veterans from civic-minded employers. The VA’s performance has been recently rated quite well in all areas. Veterans have many programs to help them get on their feet in civilian life. Those programs include expanded preference and jobs for disabled veterans.
It is entirely possible that these good reviews of VA services inevitably lead to shortcuts, streamlining of services, and concentrated efforts to cut down on people taking advantage of disability payments while having regular jobs.
First, you need to understand what substantially gainful employment entails. It means working full-time and earning more than the poverty level in your area. The national averages vary based on family size and geographic location. Examples include the following national averages in 2021:
- Family of 1: $12,880
- Family of 2: $17,420
- Family of 3: $21,960
- Family of 4: $26,500
If the VA does decide to investigate you for employability based on your income, the first thing the agency does is sending you a letter and an Employment Questionnaire for you to describe your work life. The VA used to require TDIU recipients to file Form 21-4140, a yearly employment questionnaire, but that was abolished in February 2019 because the VA now matches your wages against W-2 forms.
Veterans don’t automatically lose their benefits just because they received a letter from the VA. But if you don’t reply, your benefits might get canceled.
If you receive an employment questionnaire, it’s important to return it by the given deadline. Also, discuss the issue with an attorney if the VA might consider your current activities as meaningful employment. You should also consider hiring an attorney if you or a loved one wants to apply for individual unemployability benefits (more details in the link).
About the Author:
Crystal A. Davis was born into a family of attorneys and was raised with a strong sense of justice. During her high school years, she developed a passion for journalism and decided to combine this with her knowledge of the law. She realized that she can make her voice heard to the masses through legal journalism. Crystal is honored to follow and report on any legal case. She shares her analysis in reader-friendly articles. However, over the years, she has become a strong advocate for VA rights and made it her mission to help veterans seek justice.