TDIU is a benefit awarded to service members who can no longer work due to their military-related conditions. However, there are some specific situations in which a veteran can work and still collect benefits for TDIU. Known as the “marginal employment” exception, a former service member can work and collect TDIU so long as the veteran earns less than the federally designated poverty threshold. There is also a second exception to the rule that a veteran cannot work and collect TDIU benefits, known as the “protected work environment” exception, which can allow a veteran to work and earn above the federally designated poverty threshold while still collecting benefits for TDIU. To learn more about your legal options for the protected work environment exception, talk to a lawyer in your area today.
What is a Protected Work Environment?
Also known as a “sheltered work environment,” a protected work environment for veterans is determined by a fact-sensitive set of questions. The inquiry focuses on whether the former service member is in a specialized or unique position in that specific work environment that allows his or her to earn money that he or she would otherwise not be able to by going out into the national economy. The most common example of a protected work environment is a family-owned business. Another common example of a sheltered work environment is if a company has a specialized program for veterans that allows them to collect full pay even if they cannot always do the same amount of work as other employees.
The critical aspect of establishing a protected work environment is showing that the veteran will make full pay even if his or her service-related disabilities make it impossible to perform at the same level as other employees in the business. For example, a veteran could be hired who has severe PTSD which prevents him from coming into work on some days. If that veteran still receives a full paycheck for the work he is able to accomplish on good days, it could be considered a protected work environment if the same veteran could not go out and get another job where that special relationship existed and still expect to receive full pay.
How to Establish a Protected Work Environment
An attorney is your best option for help establishing that your current employment counts as a protected work environment. The VA looks very critically at sheltered work environment claims because in most cases if a veteran can work then they do not qualify for TDIU benefits. The most important thing to establish when proving a protected work environment is that the employer would not make these accommodations for everyone, and that the veteran is part of a special exception that specifically addresses the issues relevant to service-related disabilities.