It depends. The VA may grant TDIU when a veteran is unable to secure or follow a substantially gainful occupation due to their service-connected disabilities. While to most the words “substantially gainful occupation” may seem like meaningless jargon, the courts have determined that these words specifically mean employment where the Veteran earns more than what the current federal poverty level is for an individual. Right now, the Federal poverty level is about $12,000. This means, an employed Veteran who earns $12,000 or less per year, may be eligible for TDIU despite the fact that they are employed.
In some case, even if a Veteran is employed and earning more than $12,000 a year, they may still be eligible for TDIU if the VA considers the Veteran’s employment to be in a “protected environment,” also known as sheltered work environment. While the VA has not provided a definition of “protected environment,” generally, if a Veteran can show their service-connected injuries prevent them from consistently performing their duties in a reasonable time and the employer has made accommodations for the Veteran, the employment will be considered to be in a “protected environment.” For example, a veteran who is service-connected for PTSD and works as a fisherman would be considered to have been accommodated by his employer if they allow him to forego fishing trips if he does not want to go. In this case, the accommodation suggests that the veteran works in a protected environment and may be entitled to TDIU.