Disabled Veteran Loses TDIU Pay Over 18 Cents Income In 1 Year
One veteran with a Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) rating had his disability cut by $1,900 over 18 cents in income from 2017.
Mike Sanders, the TDIU rated veteran in question, served honorably during the Gulf War era when he severely injured his back working as a field medic in the Chemical Corps. In 2014, he received a TDIU rating because his disabilities left him unemployable.
A TDIU rating is an extra-schedular rating that allows veterans with disability ratings below 100 percent to receive pay at 100 percent because they are unemployable.
“Because I’m unable to work and support my family, the VA pays me at a 100 percent rate and gives my family the health care benefits,” said Mike Sanders.
In September 2018, he received a letter from VA informing him that he received earned income from the Social Security Administration in 2017.
“I checked with the Social Security office. I made 18 cents in income for 2017,” Mike Sanders said. “It’s not very much money. I don’t think you can buy a stick of gum with it anymore, but apparently to the VA, that’s above the poverty threshold.”
“I was in shock and he was about to have a nervous breakdown,” said Melissa Sanders. “I don’t know how we are going to manage. Even with me working an extra shift if we can make it.”
RELATED: Can I Lose My 100 Percent Disability If I Work?
Apparently, Mike Sanders’ former employer, Consolidated Nuclear Energy, failed to pay the veteran 18 additional cents in 2014 when he left the job due to his disabilities. A W2 from the employer verifies the error three years earlier.
“I found it’s a rounding error, as they described it, from my previous employer just in the way they distributed benefits,” said Mike Sanders.
At the time, Sanders confirmed with VA that he did not work on a standard VA Form 21-4140. “At the bottom here it says fill out the VA form 21-41-40, which is attached to the back here, which I did. You see here on box 10, it asks if you were employed by anyone at any time. I checked no in the box. Sign it and mail it in.”
RELATED: Vets Can Use Voc Rehab While TDIU
Veterans on TDIU can work in marginal employment meaning they do not earn more than the poverty level in a given tax year. Veterans who earn above that amount, around $12,000, will be required to pay back any additional benefits they receive only through the TDIU program.
In this instance, it appears VA cut the veteran’s benefits falsely assuming the 18 cents in income that was processed in 2017 falsely showed the veteran was employed that year, which he obviously was not.
The Sanders family has since sought help from US Sen. Lamar Alexander to get the benefits reinstated. When asked, a VA spokesman promised Sanders the agency would reach out in an attempt to resolve the problem if possible.
VA restored Mr. Sanders benefits, which included a retroactive payment. I cannot get into specifics, but unfortunately everyone did everything by the book. Ultimately, our analysis is that the VA has poorly written procedures because of a poorly written law, Federal Regulations, and incomplete information provided to the VA by other parts of the government. We’ve highlighted what ought to be done to change all of this, including providing us information about the amount of wages. Wish it would happen quickly, but based on other suggestions we’ve made, that isn’t likely.
This was an obvious mistake by the VA claims processor and a perfect example of why the system fails at providing services for veterans. Just another example of why veterans are frustrated with the VA. It’s not because veterans are ignorant, violent and illogically trying to get over on the country they so willingly and heroically protected and served. This frustration is due to many systemic problems within the VA and for the record most Mega-Organizations in general. My top 5 observations and experiences are:
1) Staff employees and clinicians providing “slop” for work. They are getting paid for doing substandard work without fear of losing their jobs which BTW they would be fired in the public sector for not meeting employer expectations and should be grateful instead of malevolent towards the veteran because we are the reason they have a good paying government job in the first place.
2) Lack of consistency in benefit decisions and Veterans Choice payments and referrals. Some veterans receive their benefits and some with the exact same issues do not.
3) Not having a Non-VA Checks and Balance system in place. If they do, then something is amiss.
4) Not having a Non-VA resource for complaints. Using the VA hotline or Patient Advocate is a joke and waste of time. No surprise here.
5) Not providing financial assistance or access to non-VA legal and financial council. With veterans having a limited income paying for these services is just not feasible and should be included as a benefit as well. It’s a uncertain endeavor getting assistance from the VSOs. Some are conscious and some are not, and they are helpful to some and not others.
These are at the top of my list of frustrations and can be easily remedied, but instead what we have in place is this antiquated military mentality that is based on the “Get er Done by whatever means necessary”. This ideology provides people with the power or scope to act as one pleases. Unfortunately this is an ideal work environment for the egotist and a nightmare for the other employees that are conscientious and for the veterans who so often are caught in an awkward, complex, unpleasant and unsuccessful situation.
An email from Chris: “Hi Lem,
We are talking a lot about TDIU on the Veterans Law Blog® lately.
It’s a critical benefit that most veterans know about, but many struggle to prove.
There are a lot of reasons, but here is a big one:
To win a TDIU claim, you have to prove you cannot get or keep “Substantially Gainful Employment” because of your service-connected disabilities.
Sounds simple, right?
Problem is, nobody has defined what ‘Substantially Gainful Employment’ means. Not Congress, not the VA, and not the Courts.
In fact, for 28 years, the Courts and the VA have been acting like children, and refusing to do anything until the other does something first.
And veterans like you are left in the lurch. You still have to prove this fact to the VA without having any idea how to prove it.
Click here to learn some ways to prove you cannot get or keep substantially gainful employment.”
You can use my BVA Decision of May 11, 2017, Docket 15-34597 to see there is definition contrary to Chris’s statement above. If you are receiving SSI of SDI and not earning more than the limit under those Social Security programs plus have a single disability rated at 60% or more or a combined rating of 70% or more you are a slam dunk for TDIU. In remand is my additional TDIU claim for TDIU between 1987 and 2009 that has to be referred to the Director of Benefits at the VA Central Office. This is an extremely long line. My claim has laid at the VARO Denver Office for 34 years. To my knowledge the Claim still hasn’t been developed and sent to the Central Office by VARO Denver. That leaves me an opening to petition the CAFC to take a look at it and give a deadline for a decision which would then be appealable.
I think you are mis,s quoting the 12,000.00 limit in income as if i remember correctly that is the limit for social security disability incom. TDIU MEANS YOU CAN NOT WORK. ANY INCOME MAKES YOU INELIGIBLE, it is clearly spelled out. If you sre 100% scheduler you can work but if 100% TDIU you can not work. They are giving you that amount for not being able to be employed. The 18 cents was earned in 2014 so ammend your income taxes and file it….you never earned it in 2017. This is a no brainer….cant believe no one figured that out.
Well, well, well! Why am I not surprised? I followed VA Regulations and Policy immediately notifying the VA of a change in income and the VA still screwed up. The VA said everything is fine and we will contact you if we need any additional information. It wasn’t fine! I contacted a lot of entities seeking assistance and received ZERO response. I am now on the hook for a ton of money because of the VA screw up.
example of the cold ass people some employee’s are at VA, and why i show no mercy when I can show their evil ways. I have yet to really find an honest claims person, even if you show 100% with no questions and provide a hundred papers proving your claim, if your own someone list, or your name is slandered by one of them as a trouble maker, you are denied any fair judgement. But I have a right to have a voice against such tyrannical treatment as this man and many go through, just uncalled for harassment.
I think this whole fiasco is blown way out of proportion! Like one commentary previously stated that the .18 is not the issue at all! It could have been .00 and it would have received the same results! The person processing this particular case was probably actually doing his job according to written protocols! By the veteran inadvertently checking no in the box that he did not work had to be grounds for flagging as was this case! Had the employee working this case not done this it could have resulted in a disciplinary personnel action against him/her by their immediate supervisor/manager and could result in their team not meeting the matrix for the data call for that reporting period! The amount of money is not the issue here at all, but you must admit that it does make a good reading and was worth looking at and investigating!
The difference is in TIDU vs SCDR, and I suspect the gang in Ohio (?) don’t quite follow. Lem is correct in so far as Service-Connected Disability Ratings at 100$ are concerned; Dan’s info is correct for SC at less-than 100%. But TIDU is NEVER a good way to go, because as Lem points out, it is a whim of the VA Administration. Anyone who’s Service-Connected Disability is so severe that it makes them “unemployable” is, by the VA definition, 100% Disabled. So either this Mike guy has other disabilities not related to his service that the VA is hiding behind, or he thought TIDU and 100% SCD were the same.
For all of that, the Rules and Procedures that VA Administrative Reviewers are supposed to follow are clear, and of course substantially disregarded. The conflict between service to a Veteran and making a bonus is so contrary to mission that I’ve always wondered why the bonus system exists at all. For a rare moment, I have a point of agreement with Crazy Elf—this was about somebody seeing a chance to score Employment Rating Points (or whatever they are called nowadays) towards a bonus or merit increase. Because an 18 cent oversight should be a simple matter for the VA to sort out, and waive.
In this specific case, the Veteran was truthful; the 18 cents was not a result of **current or post-rating** employment; it was an oversight on the part of the Veteran’s previous employer. Had the Veteran attached an explanatory note, the situation might have been averted—or not; again, the bonus/merit increase system works against the service mission of the VA.
The actual issue probably lies with Trump and his concept of the President as a CEO—despite Mr. Kruase’s infatuation with Trump. The fact that VA Policy is largely determined by his rich CEO friends at Mar-a-Lago, as is admitted—is not a recipe for close oversight of an agency that is conflicted close oversight is the only way it will ever meet its mission. This is related to what Krause complains about when he goes on and on about “government contractors”; the problem is more systematic than “just” government contractors, and the fix is either onerous (close oversight) or absurdly utopian (revamp the pay and benefits structure of the VA and let those who are in it for lucre leave).
Listen, the event here is bullshit over 18 cents, but it is blasted and being aware of being on TDIU. The VA is a system of nightmares, but when you learn the rules, the system works well. I’m sure he has worked a few years part-time. Never push the limit on the income threshold for any SSDI or TDIU. Leave a couple of hundred dollars safety cushion, but honestly, he will lose this one. SSDI or VA don’t make any exemptions on this one unless his employer amends the W2 or 1099.
By history, a congressional inquiry, like the Veteran has requested, puts the RO on notice. It will usually do a review and respond within 5-10 business days, which is expedited from any veteran’s experience. The problem is the VA will only report what has occurred up to this point to the Congressional Military Liaison. It won’t correct the problem based on the inquiry request, however the RO will place any further response, such as a Notice of Disagreement, on ready alert.
Hopefully, he has an Attorney, or Accredited Agent, in his region who can assist him in the process. I cannot speak for VSO’s overall, but having worked with several Attorneys, and Accredited Agents, throughout the country, they are for the most part invested in what they do – helping veterans who are confounded by the process of dealing with VA Regional Offices. Most have knowledge and experience about the laws and regulations that govern how and when the VA must act.
He has brought this to national attention here, so he has an agenda to get the support he needs.
Good luck to him
Here’s something else vets on “iu” might want to think about.
With ALL the people, millions being reported, out there stealing social security numbers of individuals. One might want to check on the status if anyone is using their social security number!
This vet got fucked out of his “IU” over .18 Cents! The social security office and the VA do, in fact, work hand in hand!
If someone steals a vets SS Number and works, well – the vet gets screwed!
Good point Elf. Thats why I go batshit when they ask me for my “soash” and very firmly inform them that according to Title 18 USC that its a federal felony for a “soash” to be used as a form of an ID number in any way. The Military took it off their ID cards, Ohio removed it from the drivers license. Anyone asks I will give my last 4, but thats all they get
Right on Dan!
Mr Elf, I only wish the VA worked with the Social Security Administration as they claim. The VA failed to check SSA records and to act on the notification of change in income I provided via FAX in writing and verbally the next day. The VA has records of both! If you are a Veteran you can count on getting screwed! Regardless!
Um sorry but no. There has to be something else there as I am on the TDIU and I have been told that the TDIU means you CANNOT be gainfully employed hence the term UNEMPLOYABILITY in the title. If you can work and you can make even a penny in compensation for the work you do then you are NOT unemployable and as such cannot receive this benefit. This is clearly stated to ALL Veterans if they apply for this and are accepted. AND you must go back at specific times for them to double check and make sure you are still able to receive this benefit, just like if you are granted 100% perm and total, you STILL can have this reduced or stopped for being able to work, even if its only for 10 cents, at any time for a period of 20 years. Once you hit the 20 year mark you become static which means they cant touch you. but until you hit that 20 year mark they can mess you up. I have been dealing with this for 15 years and just finished up my 29th Surgery on my service connected injuries, so I am living this. There has to be something more that we are not being told here as this does not pass the smell test.
It is not “gainful employment.” It is substantial gainful employment. And even that can be altered if you are employed in a family owned business which distributes its wealth for tax reasons.
Substantial gainful employment means more than the poverty level and employment where you aren’t given special wavers. I worked for a CPA as a bookkeeper. I couldn’t function on demand because of temporal lobe seizures. Would get behind causing penalties for untimely filings. My 1987 TDIU claim is in remand from the BVA meaning the AOJ (VARO) is going to have to come up with a better reason for not granting it. My income from the part time job was more than poverty level but and additional employee had to be hired to keep up my job. In other words, I was being given charity by a Hollywood Actor.
It is not just how much you are paid but whether you are making a substantial contribution worth the pay received. As I said before, this claim needs to go to the U S Court of Federal Claims. That is the quickest way to get a settlement. The U S Court of Federal Claims allows discovery, meaning you can force the VA to cough up the documentation which is so absurd in this case. A simultaneous appeal can be filed through the VA appeals ladder which would take much longer. A hardship claim at the CFC would be much quicker.
Also, in most cases, fishing and farming are exempted.
Sorry Lem, but that is not what I am being told nor my local County VA offices nor my VFW Reps in Cleveland Ohio. They are all saying the same thing. Employment means being able to work any kid of a job, even if its flipping hamburgers. Thats why I said there has to be something else going on here.
If you qualify for SSI (you could earn $1075 in 2015–more now) and also be qualified for unemployability. I was on SDI since 1990. I did some farming but never made a go of it because I couldn’t put in a full day. If I had made enough to file Income tax, I could have earned up to that SSI standard for most months of a year and still received my BVA award of TDIU in 2017 back to 2009 based upon my 70% combined presumptive TDIU rating. If you like I’ll look up the 38 CFR controlling regulations for you tomorrow. So if you are in the situation I was you need to get the fuck away from the VFW and find a lawyer. If you have claimed TDIU and not been awarded for over 5 years there are tons of lawyers will to grab that low hanging fruit–20% of your back pay that has to come from your award by the BVA. If it goes to the CAVC the VA will have to pay your 20%. I’m speaking from the experience of getting TDIU and now being more employable than I was in 1985 when my TBI was first diagnosed. But now I’m being treated for temporal lobe seizures. Subtle thing that is hard to recognize but causes misery in your life. If I had been treated when a non VA physician recommended it in 1985 I probably would have been able to at least hold that part time bookkeeping job that I had to let go in 1990. I fully expect the back pay to the date of my 1987 claim because of the evidence in the file. I’m 77 now and I expect it would be hard to take my TDIU and 70% rating away from me because of the malpractice of not treating my seizures sooner and making me more employable for those 30 years to 2015 when the VA finally began my seizure treatment.
Once Mr. Sanders status is reinstated, the VA should pay him an additional amount for the emotional pressures that have preceded to him due to this VA caused mishandling of the explanation given. Irresponsible action on part of the VA is inexcusable on this case.
My husband was on this TDIU and they screwed him over badly. Only what we found out that while being on this you are NOT allowed to exceed the allotment given. So for instance, if you do get a job, say the spouse and not the veteran. That money is deducted from that monthly pension. I started receiving child support payments owed to me from years ago, child already into their adulthood and families of their own. Only $200 a month. I notified the VA immediately of the support payments, which it turn took them over 6 months to make the adjustments, and by the time they got around to do so, they just cut us off completely and said they over pay us by well over $5,000. Which was only $1,000 at $200 a month X 6 months. We had to fight like hell to get this reinstated, had to cut off my child support payments. It was hell! in the end, they ended up owing us money back because we over paid them. What they did to this guy in the article is no surprise, as they will cut you off slicker than crap over 2 cents. This type of pension TDIU is like being on Welfare, everything must be reported! The problem is, you report everything to the Pension Center, and they take their sweet time making the adjustments and in the end you owe them and they cut you off.
Kat you are sadly mistaken in what you wrote, If your Husband was on VA Disability Compensation and TDIU there is NO reduction based on what you (his Spouse) earns or has as monthly income. The Key here is understanding the terms used to describe what He is drawing. Your husband from what I am reading was on the VA’s pension program which provides monthly benefit payments to certain wartime Veterans with a financial need with no regard to Service connection of any disability. TDIU on the other hand is VA Disability Compensation paid because your Service Connected Disabilities prevent you from working. The Pension Center has nothing to do with these payments.
I read it the same way.
Typical, the VA has no shortage of stupid people an a-holes.
Well, isn’t this special?
Fucking a veteran out of their TDIU for eighteen cents by an obviously illiterate employee that isn’t worth two.
I hope Mike Sanders gets his situation fairly resolved in an expeditious manner. If the resolution were fair, said employee of the VA would be immediately fired.
It is not enough that the VA lies, and veterans die waiting for the VA to properly process their claims – – – now the VA is actively going after veterans in any manner they can to keep veterans from their earned benefits. And to recoup them should the veteran be fortunate enough to be receiving them.
Time to shut the whole damn VA down. Give veterans a card to let them choose their own healthcare providers with the U.S. Government paying the bills for same.
To those veterans who would like government managed healthcare, let me remind you that back in 1990, the Government seized the Mustang Ranch brothel in Nevada for tax evasion and, as required by law, tried to run it. They failed and it closed. Now, we are trusting the economy of our country and 850+ Billion Dollars to a pack of nit-wits who couldn’t make money running a whore house and selling booze.
The mainstream media of course, will pay zero attention to incidents such as these. Because we live in the most free and mighty nation on earth, right? Nothing to see here.
Imbecilic journalists, the vast majority of them.
There are now routine deployments of TU-160 Backfire Bombers to Venezuela, ISIS which CLOTUS Trump assures us has been defeated – – – is in the midst of resurgence, still killing Americans.
Documents have now surfaced that clearly demonstrate that Russia offered the DPRK a nuclear reactor.
Won’t be long before the Borei’s, Delta III’s and IV’s begin patrolling in their boxes again off the East and West Coasts. Depressed trajectory shot should take roughly 9 minutes to reach their targets. Twelve minutes from the San Fran Patrol area to Whiteman AFB.
Syria’s a mess. Yet the Russo-Chinese pact seems stronger than it has ever been.
And the average Joe Shit the Ragman is blissfully ignorant.
Hurrah for the free near the grave! May they watch the Kardashians forever . . .
Wake the fuck up, America.
Correction: TU-160 Blackjack Bombers. Backfires are Tu-22’s.
I am a bit confused. In one part of the story you say that A TDIU veteran can work marginally up to $12,000 a year but you are saying he lost his benefits because he earned .18 cents?
The problem is he didn’t check the box “yes” I was paid for employment in (year) which was a question generated because of a W-2. The 18 cents wouldn’t have caused a problem and he will eventually get that money back if he files a claim at the Court of Federal Claims.
Yes, a jerk pulled a shit string on him just to fuck with him because he could. Shows there are constantly jerks pulling strings to get the VARO Director a bonus in their suck up ways while assuaging their sadistic bent.
He should ask for pain and suffering under the new rules plus any interest he had to pay during the withdrawal of a partial of his benefit. If Ben really cared he’d be on this case.
This is a good warning for those of us that have a TDIU rating. Make sure you file the form with a yes and an explanation for you and your employer for the reason it is not “substantial income.”
A good substantial claim award will get the suck up a reaming, perhaps even a demotion or a shit assignment because it will cut into the Director’s Bonus and be a warning through out the VA for other jerks.
Betcha the VA will say it was a “computer glitch”! That way they can say the computer did it, not a human!
Then ask congress for an UPDATE for that particular computer glitch….when that glitch has a heartbeat and fogs a mirror most days….
This is just one more VA fuckup! What can on expect from the VA!
In my opinion, a veteran service officer should be all over this VA fuckup! Oh, but wait, VSO’s don’t give a rats ass about veterans!
Not true, I was a Service Officer through the D.A .V. for a good many years and I helped many a Veteran get their benefits, I am proud to say many have received 50% or better. I still give advice to Veterans who needs answers to their questions.
I was too cold this morning to comment but this article of World Class Asses swiftly pushed things along into the porcelain VA suggestion tubes.
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