Veterans who suffer from disabilities can sometimes struggle to understand their rights and whether or not they are allowed to work and still collect benefits. This is mainly due to the changing terms and misconceptions associated with what the ADA defines as a “disability.”
The answer to this really is dependent on the disability rating that is assigned, as well as the type of disability you are categorized as.
What is A VA Disability Rating?
Once veterans submit their medical records to the VA for medical review, The Department of Veterans Affairs will assign a disability rating. The amount of compensation and protections that vets receive is a direct result of how they are categorized based on what the VA determines of your individual case.
There are two main disability rating methods:
The first method the VA uses to determine disability ratings is a percentage scale.
The Percentage Scale
This percentage scale, also known as the schedule of ratings, works by assigning a percentage to a veteran that describes the level of disability that the veteran experiences. These percentages are not completely black and white, though. For example, 100% disabled veterans may not be completely physically disabled and may still be able to work in some cases, but some 100% disabled veterans could be completely disabled and unable to work.
The percentage may be assigned to a single condition, or there may be smaller percentages for each condition that add up to a larger VA disability percentage rating. For every condition that a veteran has as a direct result of their service, a percentage is prescribed.
For each successive condition, the percentages are added together. To explain — if one type of injury equals a 60% rating, and there is another injury that equals a 25% rating, the veteran’s total percentage of disability would be recognized by the VA as 70% (60% + (25% * 40%).
The other type of disability rating is the Individual Unemployability Rating, which is related to the veteran’s ability to keep and maintain a job. This rating measures whether or not the VA believes the veteran in question can find and keep a job with the conditions reported on their medical exam.
Not only that, but they also consider what percentage of work time may be lost due to related illnesses, medications, or other factors that are a direct result of their disability.
So, how can veterans receive a 100% disability rating if they are not completely impaired?
This is a very common and understandably confusing aspect of VA disability. If you are a vet with a 50% total physical disability but are completely unable to perform your job properly due to the disability, you may be eligible to receive 100% disability compensation — even if you are not fully impaired.
This is in place to protect veterans who have severe disabilities (even if they are not completely disabled) and to ensure they are taken care of and do not have to struggle to pay bills or put food on the table.
How Veterans Can Legally Work With A 100% Disability Rating
There is an important distinction between the schedule of ratings and the Individual Unemployability rating.
If a veteran has received a 100% schedule of ratings, then they may still be eligible to work and receive benefits. However, veterans who are classified at an 100% unemployability veteran are not permitted to have “substantial gainful employment.”
While this is listed in the Code of Federal Regulations, there is no comprehensive list that clearly describes the meaning of “substantial gainful employment.”
Instead, the Code of Federal Regulations defines what it does not consider to be a violation of these rules — something called “marginal employment.” This is defined as follows:
“… marginal employment generally shall be deemed to exist when a veteran’s earned annual income does not exceed the amount established by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, as the poverty threshold for one person.”
This marginal employment may also include, according to the code, “employment in a protected environment such as a family business or sheltered workshop … when earned annual income exceeds the poverty threshold.”
While this may be a confusing topic, the main points to remember include:
- Veterans with “schedule of ratings” disability percentages may legally have “substantial gainful employment” even if they are rated at 100% disabled. If they receive Total Disability/Individual Unemployability compensation, then they may not be eligible for this type of employment.
- Receiving the Individual Unemployability benefit that designates a vet as 100% “unemployable” means you cannot work a job deemed “substantial gainful employment” that elevates your income above the “official” Census Bureau’s definition of the poverty line.
Speak With HR Search & Rescue To Learn More
We hope this information helps you understand your situation and clears up any misconceptions about the differences in disability classifications put forward by the VA.
HR Search and Rescue is a full-service HR consulting firm that specializes in solving some of the most pressing and challenging workplace issues the modern workforce faces. Our HR consultants are dedicated to helping clients feel safe and always work diligently to protect confidential information. Contact us online to learn more about hiring veterans with 100% disability.