In most cases, a veteran never has to file any forms with the department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to maintain their Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits. Once TDIU is awarded, it is generally semi-permanent in nature, unless VA has reason to believe your condition may improve in the future. This is particularly true if there is a disease process included as part of the TDIU that may be temporary in nature, or one that VA feels has a likelihood of improvement in the near future.
The award of entitlement to TDIU, which is paid at the 100 percent rate based on a veteran’s inability to maintain substantially gainful employment, is paid in place of the underlying disability rating assigned by VA. If VA decides that the underlying disability ratings have improved, then VA can also issue a proposal to reduce your award and terminate entitlement to TDIU.
In the past, VA required all veterans receiving TDIU to fill out an annual form, certifying they had not held a job within the past year. VA has done away with this requirement, because they now have data matching agreements with other federal agencies, including the IRS and the Social Security Administration (SSA). VA will typically be notified if a former servicemember begins to work by virtue of the withheld taxes and reports to the SSA.
It is important to note that veterans receiving TDIU still have the obligation to inform VA if they have been working, especially if that work meets the definition of substantially gainful employment. When VA receives notification from another Federal agency that a veteran has reported wages, they will generally reach out and request more information about that employment. Veterans are given an opportunity to explain more about their situation before VA makes a determination that they want to discontinue TDIU benefits by filing a proposal to decrease benefits.
A veteran can voluntarily discontinue TDIU benefits at any time if they feel they want to begin working. However, veterans should think very carefully about this request and ensure they are able to maintain substantially gainful employment for some time, since reinstatement of TDIU is not automatic if it is discontinued.
Even if TDIU is discontinued, a veteran is still eligible to receive their original, underlying disability rating from VA. If, after a certain amount of time, the veteran decided that their condition has worsened and they are unable to work again, they would have to start the application process over again from scratch with VA.
In most cases, there is no reassessment by VA once TDIU has been awarded. If VA feels that the underlying medical conditions have a likelihood of improvement, however, future medical examinations may be required. Although VA no longer sends out annual paper forms requiring certification from veterans receiving TDIU, veterans should still notify VA of any material changes.
VA is not allowed to just stop a benefit out of the blue. If the agency feels that a former servicemember’s TDIU benefits should be reduced or revoked, there are due process considerations. VA would need to notify that veteran that there is a proposal to decrease or sever that benefit, and there would be options for the former servicemember to respond before TDIU would be stopped or updated.
Effective December 1st of each year, there is at least a possible cost of living increase. It is not automatic, although it is always the same rate as what the SSA gives. Each year, when Congress announces that they have increased Social Security by a certain percentage, the same exact percentage applies to VA TDIU benefits.
This pay increase is across the board and includes any VA disability ratings from 10-percent through 100-percent. If you have questions about how this and other external factors may warrant updating TDIU benefits, call VetLaw’s team of attorneys today.