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Veterans Law

Can I Still Work If I Receive VA Disability?

Robert Chisholm

February 27, 2018

Updated: June 20, 2024

VA Disability

It depends. Veterans who receive VA disability compensation for their conditions can work either full or part time with a few exceptions.

When Can Veterans Work While Receiving VA Disability Benefits?

Veterans can work while receiving VA disability benefits as long as they are not receiving a monthly benefit called Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU). Aside from this exception, veterans who are being paid compensation for their disabilities are able to work and continue receiving those benefits.

Veterans can also work throughout the application and appeals process for VA compensation. Working during the disability process will not disqualify you from receiving benefits.

When Can a Veteran Not Work While Receiving VA Disability Benefits?

TDIU is a benefit for veterans who are unable to work due to their service-connected disabilities. Veterans who receive TDIU are not able to get and keep substantially gainful employment. TDIU is granted under the assumption that a veteran cannot work in what the VA considers to be “substantially gainful employment.” Because the inability to work is a requirement for receiving TDIU, veterans who participate in substantially gainful employment will not be eligible.

However, eligibility for TDIU does depend on whether your work is considered to be marginal. Marginal employment can be part-time employment where a veteran’s annual earnings are below the federal poverty line, or work that is protected. Protected employment generally means employment in a family owned business or protected workshop. While protected employment can mean you are making above the federal poverty line, it may not be considered substantially gainful employment.

What About Working When I Apply for TDIU?

While there is no requirement that a veteran be unemployed when applying for TDIU, it may be more difficult for veterans who are working to win their claim for TDIU. Since VA looks at whether or not the veteran is unemployable due to their service-connected disabilities, working during the TDIU application process may lead the VA to think you are still able to work.

What Is the Bottom-line?

If you are working and receive service-connected compensation, you will not be penalized by the VA. Working veterans will only run into problems with the VA if they are receiving TDIU and their work is considered to be substantially gainful. If you are currently working but are unable to continue due to your service-connected disabilities, applying for TDIU may be a suitable option.

Every veteran’s work situation and disability picture are different so it is important to note that no two cases are the same when it comes to VA compensation. When applying for disability compensation, be sure to look at all the requirements to make sure you are eligible for each benefit.

About the Author

Bio photo of Robert Chisholm

Robert is a Founding Partner of CCK Law. His law practice focuses on representing disabled veterans in the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and before the Department of Veterans Affairs. As a veterans lawyer Robert has been representing disabled veterans since 1990. During his extensive career, Robert has successfully represented veterans before the Board of Veterans Appeals, Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

See more about Robert