If you are collecting VA disability benefits, you may be wondering if you can also work and earn income. Generally, disability benefits are awarded to veterans who were disabled or had a disability worsened during active military service. Disability payments typically replace the funds that the veteran would be receiving if they could work. So the answer to whether you can collect disability benefits and work is…sometimes.
If you are unsure how your employment will be classified by the VA, consult your attorney for help. According to a VA disability lawyer from South Carolina, a specialized law firm in veterans’ affairs can assist you with your case. Find a team of specialists who understand the ins and outs of how the VA operates and help you get the benefits you deserve.
Your VA disability lawyer can review your specific case and let you know for certain whether you can work and earn benefits. It helps to know this before you fill out your application or start work to ensure you don’t get denied or disqualified for benefits.
Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU)
Suppose the VA has assigned you a 100 percent disability rating. In that case, this typically means that you are completely disabled and unable to work in any capacity that will earn you a gainful living to support you every day. If you have been rated as completely unemployable, 100 percent disabled, or TDIU, you cannot earn an income and still keep your disability benefits.
Substantially Gainful Employment
What if you work part-time, odd jobs, or on short contracts? Does this constitute employment according to the VA’s eligibility criteria? Many veterans take on odd jobs to make ends meet and supplement their disability income, especially in high cost of living areas. According to the VA, substantially gainful employment is comparable to what a non-disabled person would receive in the community in which you live. Therefore, typically earning more than the poverty level would indicate that you are earning substantially gainful income and are not considered TDIU or unemployable.
If you are considered TDIU by the VA, there are still instances in which you can work and keep your benefits. For example, if you work less than part-time, work only sporadically or work in an informal situation, you may still be able to work and receive your full benefits. Typically, you will be working shortened hours and in a more informal situation in these situations. If, for example, you work in a friend’s business for 10 hours a week and they make accommodations for your disability, and you earn less than the poverty line wage, you may still be able to work and receive your benefits.
What if I Have a Job? When Should I Apply for Benefits?
You’re not required to be unemployed when you apply for benefits, but if you claim that you cannot work because of your disability, it could hurt your case.
What if I’m Self-Employed?
Self-employment is tricky when it comes to applying for disability benefits. When you work for yourself, you can control the number of hours you work and the amount of money you earn. The VA will decide whether your employment is substantially gainful based on what you were earning before your disability. If you are earning the same amount now as a freelancer or self-employed that you were before you became disabled, the VA may consider you employable. However, if you are applying as 100 percent disabled, this can affect the VA’s final determination.
Getting Legal Assistance
Many veterans don’t seek legal representation because they worry about attorneys’ fees, among others. You shouldn’t see costs as a problem. When you contact a specialized law firm, they will most likely set up a free consultation with you to review all of your documentation and the facts of your case. They will help you determine whether your work activities are substantial or marginal. Most reputable law firms’ consultations are free, and they don’t get paid until you do, as they work on contingency.
Mark Scott: With a law degree under his belt, Mark Scott understood very early that law communication was a relatively neglected area. He decided to help people by “translating” the language and offering information and advice in a clear, useful, and actionable manner. For this reason, instead of finding him in court, you will most likely find his name online, where he is very active and thriving as a legal columnist. His part of making the world a better place is to make the law a less convoluted maze. He aims to make it easier for people to understand when and how to seek legal counsel, how to proceed in a significant number of legal matters and to find the proper resources so they can stand up for their rights.
Photo by Caleb Oquendo from Pexels