This question comes up a lot, and it seems that permanent and total (P&T) and Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) create a lot of confusion. Which one is better? Can you work if you are 100% Permanent and Total? Can you work if you have TDIU? What does it even mean? Welcome to today’s episode of ‘Demystifying the VA Acronyms’.
What is Permanent & Total (P&T) Disability?
Permanent and Total, or P%T, is a rating from the VA that finds a Veteran is permanently and totally disabled according to the rating scheme. This means that a rater has examined the Veterans claim and has decided that the Veteran’s disability will not improve. That speaks to the permanent portion. The disability or disabilities under question will not get better. The ‘total’ portion simply means that the Veteran is at the 100% point of being completely disabled according to the VA standards. The VA calls this type of rating a schedular rating, meaning that the Veteran is 100% disabled according to the VA’s schedule of ratings.
This has nothing to do with whether the Veteran can, in fact, work or not. There are many Veterans who are 100% Permanent and Total and yet are working full time jobs and happy doing so. However, the rating is representative of how much each particular disability may lead to functional impairment in a job. Total disability for the VA compensation purpose does not mean unable to work at all.
What is Total Disability Individual Unemployability
On the other hand, extra-schedular rating refers to Total Disability Individual Unemployability. The Veteran has a disability with a rating of less than 100%. However, the VA rater has decided that their Service-Connected disability or combination of disabilities means that the Veteran is unable to find or to maintain substantially gainful employment. If this is the case, the rater will assign the Veteran a TDIU rating. Their pay will be at the 100% rating, even if their disability is less than 100%.
Similarities and Differences
Both ratings pay at the same rate. There are many Veterans who are rated for less than 100%, but the combination of disabilities they experience legitimately makes it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain any kind of gainful employment.
However, there is an important difference in the two ratings. With a rating of 100% P&T you can work as you wish. In other words, you can do anything you want to for a job and make as much money as you want. The VA rates you as totally disabled. However, this doesn’t have any bearing on your employability or ability to work. On the other hand, if you are TDIU, you have agreed with the VA that you are totally disabled and unemployable. Therefore, you very limited in your ability to work and earn a wage.
How Much Am I Allowed To Earn If I Am TDIU?
This is a question that comes up often. The simple answer is, it depends. When you have extra-schedular 100% rating, the VA considers you disability to be a total disability that prevents you from working. There are two situations in which people on TDIU could earn money and probably not affect their VA compensation.
Marginal Employment and TDIU
According to CFR 38, marginal employment will not count as substantial employment. This is employment in which the Veteran does not earn over the national poverty line as established by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Specifically, it states that the Veteran’s income not exceed the poverty threshold for one person. As of 2021 this is $12,880 for one person. As long as the yearly income stays under this amount, the Veteran should continue to receive the 100% compensation from their TDIU.
Employment in a Protected Environment
This is the other situation which the CFR allows. The specific examples from the regulation are family businesses or working in a sheltered workshop. The meaning is that there must be special considerations for the Veteran to allow them to work. In such an instance the CFR states Veterans may earn over National Poverty Level. Veterans must understand that if they begin to earn over the poverty rate, the VA will most likely investigate to determine if their particular situation meets the requirements.
Eligibility for TDIU
As with all compensation from the VA, there are certain eligibility requirements for TDIU. First, you must be a Veteran. Family members are not eligible. Veterans may be eligible if they meet both of the following requirements.
- You must have at least 1 service-connected disability rated at 60%, OR 2 or more disabilities with one rated at 40% and a combined rating of at least 70%. AND
- You cannot hold down a steady job that financially supports you (substantially gainful employment) because of your service-connected disability.
If a Veteran wants to file for TDIU, they will file a claim for disability compensation and provide evidence (doctor’s notes, medical results) which show that you have a disability preventing you from holding down a steady job. The VA will also review the Veterans education and work history.
One other point. TDIU can be temporary. It is quite possible to get TDIU awarded for a period of time when a Veteran is unable to work due to disabilities, and later find a job which they are able to successfully perform.
So to sum up, P&T and TDIU both come with compensation for a 100% rating. However, if a Veteran wants to continue to work, there is a very low income limit for TDIU and no income limit for P&T.
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