If you are a veteran with a 100% VA rating but want to work, make sure you get the rules right so you don’t lose your benefits.
Yes! Veterans can have a 100% combined rating while working. If you have a 100% rating for a single disability, it is likely because your condition prevents you from working. If you are working or thinking about quitting work because of your disabilities, read more below. We want to stress that working while applying for benefits does not help your claim, but it does not necessarily hurt your claim either. Working generally won’t affect your rating, but working is likely to negatively affect total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) claims.
What To Know if You Work While Getting 100% VA Disability
- Can You Work While On Disability with a 100% VA Rating?
- What Disability Earns a 100% VA Rating?
- Other Ways to Increase Your Benefits Beyond a 100% or TDIU Rating
- What Qualifies for TDIU?
- What Does a 100% VA Disability Rating Pay Monthly?
- What if I Have Accommodations at My Job?
- What if I was denied my 100% VA Disability rating?
Can You Work While On Disability with a 100% VA Rating?
Many veterans don’t know they can get a 100% combined VA disability rating while working.
One point to understand is the difference between a 100% rating and individual unemployability benefits. While you can receive both if you still work, it can be more difficult to prove you are disabled if you are working 40+ hours at a typical job.
Proving that you can’t work and that you should receive TDIU while still working is obviously very tricky. It takes a combination of medical proof to show that you can’t work and a job opening to enable you to work in very special circumstances.
If you are trying to prove that you have 100% level disabilities, then you have to have the medical backing to show it.
What Disability Earns a 100% VA Rating?
This rating will be determined by the severity of your mental and physical conditions. Since the intent of VA disability is to make up for your ability to support yourself, the ratings rank what percentage you fall short of your full abilities. That’s why nobody can ever get more than a 100% rating, no matter how severe the combination of their disabilities.
This also means that if you are rated at a full 100%, the VA deems you completely 0% able to earn a living. If they gave you a 90% rating, then they are still thinking that you can earn 10% of your living expenses. We know this is a lot harder in real life than it looks on paper.
You’ll get a 100% VA disability rating for:
- Active Tuberculosis affecting multiple parts of your body
- Totally incapacitating arthritis
- One year after shoulder, elbow, hip, or knee replacement surgery
- Complete loss of a hand or a foot
- Loss of use (it’s still there but it doesn’t work) of a hand or a foot
- Unfavorable ankylosis of the entire spine (when you are stuck in a bent over or bent sideways position)
- several other severe conditions
You can see that a 100% total rating would be very severe. For many conditions not listed above, it falls into the regularity of the symptoms showing up. Less frequent flare-ups of depression, anxiety, and pain bring in lower ratings while more often and harder-hitting episodes increase your rating.
Other Ways to Increase Your Benefits Beyond a 100% or TDIU Rating
Along with your VA rating, you can also apply for Aid and Assistance and SMC money. Those are above the normal disability check to help pay for in-home care, additional costs to help your living arrangements, or even for someone to run errands for your every week.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers talks about how SMC (Special Monthly Compensation) works to help you get more money for extra expenses related to your disabling condition every month.
What Qualifies for TDIU?
These benefits pay the same as a 100% VA disability rating. However, these benefits are for disabled veterans with employment problems who often cannot reach a 100% VA disability rating.
TDIU pays the same amount as a 100% rating for veterans who can’t hold down a steady job that supports them financially (known as substantially gainful employment) because of their service-connected disability. Odd jobs, which the VA calls “marginal employment,” don’t count.
Veterans are eligible for TDIU if they have:
- At least one service-connected disability rated at 60% or more disabling OR
- Two or more service-connected disabilities with at least one rated at 40% or more disabling and a combined rating of 70% or more
TDIU shows that the VA understands you don’t have to be 100% disabled to not be able to work. You might only have a 50% rating for migraine headaches, but it is still impossible for you to work. You would only need two more 10% disabilities and a 20% disability to qualify for TDIU. You’d be getting the cash equivalent of a 100% disability rating so that you wouldn’t have to work, but your disabilities wouldn’t have to be so extreme.
Veterans can get Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits while working but only under certain circumstances. They will have to show that their employer is making such extreme accommodations at work that you are essentially unemployable.
The fact that 50+10+10+20=70 is the other reason why TDIU is so helpful. With VA math, it is very difficult to have your disabilities add up to 100%. If you are going 10% at a time, you’ll have to have 18 conditions rated at 10% to get 90% VA disability. It takes another ten disabilities at 10% to go from 90% to 100% disability.
It may be difficult to get 100% TDIU from one disability, but here one of our VA disability lawyers talks about common disabilities that add up to a 100% combined rating.
What Does a 100% VA Disability Rating Pay Monthly?
The Veterans Administration will pay veterans who obtain a 100% VA disability rating over $3,621.95 a month. The VA also offers extra compensation if you have children or parents that are dependent on you. Lots of veterans are also entitled to back pay – which can be a significant amount of money owed to you.
Once you are approved for VA disability benefits, you will start receiving monthly checks from the Veterans Administration. There will be a set amount of money that is sent to you each month. The amount depends upon your VA disability rating. It is tax-free and will probably increase a little bit every year as Congress approves updated rates in December. The VA COLA (Cost-Of-Living-Adjustment) increases by a few percent every year.
VA will award back pay all the way back to your effective date. That means when you receive a favorable decision on your appeal the VA will owe you the difference between the amount you were paid and how much you were owed.
Your effective date will either be the date you filed a claim or your date of entitlement (the date your service-connected injury otherwise arose). In most cases, it will be the date that you filed your claim.
Back pay is also how we charge for our services. Our fees are covered by a percentage of your back pay.
A behind-the-scenes look at who works for you at Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm.
Dependent Children and Parents:
You should note on your application if you have dependent children or parents. Even if you are a blended family with step-children, you can still get additional money to take care of them as a part of your disability. Children aged 18-24 can still count if they are in college or if they were classified as disabled before they turned 18.
Dependent parents also count. If you are caring for your aging parents and they are dependents in your household, they count too. We include all of these options on our free VA disability calculator. You can also fill out the calculator and then contact us to get all of your questions answered.
What if I Have Accommodations at My Job?
If you have accommodations at your job but can’t reach a 100% VA disability rating, you definitely want to consider applying for TDIU benefits. In other words, if you have trouble doing your job duties because of your service-connected disabilities, VA unemployability benefits were made for you.
Accommodations are needed when you have restrictions on your work. If you can’t sit or stand too long so you have to take more breaks than anyone else, that’s accommodation. You might not want the special treatment like that, but finding an employer that honors veterans enough to make accommodations is a big deal.
Missing work because of depression and not getting fired, needing extra breaks during the workday, or not being able to work with angry customers are all times where accommodations come up. If an employer cuts you some slack more than anyone else, you’re working with accommodations.
The VA will consider many different restrictions as accommodations for VA disability benefits. It can help your claim to gather up statements from your current and former employers stating how your disabilities prevented you from doing the duties your job required.
Even if you ended up getting fired, you can work with us and we’ll talk to your former employer (with your permission of course). If we can get a letter from him or her that talks about how much trouble you had at your job, we’ll make that an important part of your claim. Lay statements like this are sometimes the best evidence, depending on the disability.
What if I was denied my 100% VA Disability rating?
If you were denied a 100% VA disability rating, you might want to consider talking to a veterans disability benefits lawyer. It won’t cost you anything to ask questions and learn what your legal options are. We are happy to go through our complete list of questions we use to find the best plan of attack for your disability application or appeal.
Have a copy of your denial letter handy when you call. The VA probably gave us some good clues in that letter that will help with your appeal. We work with veterans who have been denied or lost their disability every day.
Woods & Woods never charges for initial claim evaluations. There is only a fee if you hire us and we win your appeal.
If you think you are eligible for TDIU benefits, call toll-free (866) 232-5777 to start the process.