Thank you for this opportunity to ask important questions to an authority without the fear of the question jeopardizing my benefits. I have an 80% scheduler rating and am receiving 100% TDIU. I also have been doing volunteer work during this time and it has been rewarding in so many ways. Now that my children are grown I have been contemplating returning to the workforce. My disabilities are orthopedic for the most part and I have worked diligently to over come most of the limitations they have caused me. I believe that I could maintain gainful employment at a significant rate of pay. My questions are:


  1. Does the VA have a transition program to assist veterans attempting this?
  2. I understand my benefit amount will be dropped to the 80% rate but is there a period where it would continue to pay at the higher rate?

My concern is that if I accept an offer of employment and actually work, I would have to start at square one to re-establish TDIU if I was unable to perform my duties as required. My goal is to secure employment with a federal agency. During these difficult times recently, my compensation is barely covering my living expenses. Working is more of a necessity than it’s is choice at this time. Thank you in advance for you time and attention.


Jim's Reply:

The TDIU rated veteran is allowed to work at marginal employment that earns less than the federal poverty wage. That's often enough to allow the vet to make ends meet since the TDIU payment is generous and tax free.

However, a lot of veterans feel that they can earn more and I happen to agree that work is good for us. Like you, I did a lot of volunteer work to keep busy...I was even a 'volunteer of the year' at my VA facility once. I'd guess most of the volunteers you see at your VA are rated veterans. Productive work is built into our genetics and it's good for us to participate even if it doesn't bring income.

Unfortunately VA doesn't have a return to work program like the SSA does.  However, you can accomplish your goals by simply plowing ahead and getting to work. You won't have to notify anyone and this may work best.

VA tracks your earned taxable income by following your accounts at SSA and IRS. If you are a TDIU vet and you suddenly start paying taxes on earned income above the federal poverty wage, you'll get a letter from VA wanting you to complete a VA Form 21-4140 to explain why you should be TDIU if you're working? This will be the time that you'll have to consider that your rating will fall back to the base 80% level.

This is VA we're dealing with so there's a lag built into all this. It may take VA 2 or 3 years before your extraordinary income is noticed so you have some time to try all this out.

While this isn't as formal as the SSA way of doing things, this gives you plenty of time to try and fail. If you return to work and learn that you can't do it for the long run, you may not have earned enough to attract the attention of the VA. Yes, if you are successful and your working requires that you lose the TDIU rating and you needed it in the future, you'd have to reapply and qualify all over.

I see a real glitch in the matrix of your plan however. Your goal is to secure a federal job. Every federal application will ask about your disability ratings whether those are from a civilian source or VA. You can't ignore these questions and an incorrect answer could disqualify you from all federal jobs.

I think you can anticipate more questions about why you hold a TDIU rating as you're applying for work? Federal agencies will be a lot more concerned about that than many civilian employers would be. While many 100% schedular disabled veterans work in federal agencies, they aren't TDIU as TDIU implies that you aren't allowed employment.

If I were to advise you I'd tell you to locate some work that you can handle and that is local to you. That probably will exclude most federal jobs and that's OK. Set a goal for yourself that you will earn (x) dollars in the next 6 months and see how you do. Once you've done that you'll know a little more about your capacity for a full time effort to return to the mainstream work force.

Good luck sir.