A common trait of veterans is that they work hard, push towards gaining their objectives, and never admit defeat. Unfortunately, sometimes that means that they overlook the severity of the challenges they are facing in maintaining gainful employment after discharge. Family members never want to disparage a veteran’s work efforts, but having one job after another and the bills start to pile up, it’s worth stepping back and evaluating whether difficulty in employment may be due to service-connected disabilities.
The inability to sustain substantially gainful employment is one of the eligibility requirements for getting a TDIU (total disability individual unemployability) finding.
Marginal employment is not be considered substantially gainful employment. What is “marginal employment”? There are two ways to determine whether a veteran’s employment is considered marginal, and not substantially gainful.
One way to evaluate employment is to look at annual income for several years. Marginal employment is deemed to exist when a veteran’s earned annual income is below the amount established by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, as the poverty threshold. These thresholds are published every year. For 2017, the amounts were $12,752 for those under age 65, and $11,756 for those age 65 and over, and are higher for families with dependents. If you don’t know what your (or your spouse’s) annual income is, an Earnings Report can be requested from the Social Security Administration.
Keep in mind that other VA disability benefits, or Social Security disability benefits, you may be already receiving are not taxable income and thus are not included in the taxable earnings used to decide the poverty thresholds.
The other means of evaluating employment for this purpose is to look at the specifics of a veteran’s place of employment. Marginal employment may also be held to exist, on a fact found basis when earned annual income exceeds the poverty threshold, but the employment is in a protected environment, such as a family business or sheltered workshop, that makes work accommodations for the veteran that would not otherwise be available. Consideration is given in all claims to the nature of the employment and the reason for termination.
Do you think you or your veteran spouse may not have substantially gainful employment and may be eligible for TDIU benefits? Veterans Law Group has helped thousands of other veteran families just like yours and are happy to help.