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Honesty is the best policy

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Posted on: Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jim,

I recieved the notorious 21-4140 a couple of days ago. I intend on filling out and sending the questionaire to the VARO like I am supposed to well within the 60 days certified mail. The letter is dated 1/17/2012 and it asks if I was employed within the last 12 mos. I did work a couple of months from Jan 1 2011 to Mar 1 2011 and resigned because I recieved my IU award ltr and accepted the IU in late Feb of 2011. I am a little nervous about this but in retrospect I feel I was honest and resigned from my position when I accepted the IU. Should I be concerned?

Reply:

Maybe just a little concerned. Not much.

Honesty is the best policy. Your credibility counts. You want to be sure that any time you submit a communication to VA for any reason that it's 100% factual. We never attempt to disguise even the smallest details. I'm happy to see that you feel the same. VA will cross match records with IRS and SSA and if there is a discrepancy in what you've told the VA, you'll lose that all important credibility.

The thought process we have to follow will require that we think of this from the VA's perspective.

Consider that TDIU is based on the word "unemployability". It's a word that VA seems to have made up but the meaning is pretty clear...in order to be eligible for the benefit you must show that nobody will hire you because of your service connected disabilities.

If I were a strict interpreter of that thinking, I'd have to say that once you had a job, you were no longer unemployable and that you should have withdrawn your application for TDIU and continued to work.

However, the system isn't all that strict. The system allows a veteran to try to return to work and for about a year to use the TDIU benefit as a sort of cushion, just in case the employment isn't successful.

The rub here comes when you say that you "resigned because I recieved my IU award ltr". Veterans aren't supposed to resign or retire for the express purpose of receiving an unemployment benefit. This concept is true in the civilian system as well...you can't quit your job and then expect that to collect an unemployment check.

What you need to do is to rethink and restate why you left the job. I'm sure that you didn't leave just because of the TDIU award. I'm also sure that working was a struggle that may have worsened your conditions and that the employment probably wasn't going to last in any case.

Most veterans who find themselves in your position (you aren't alone) have taken a marginal job on a temporary basis because they're desperate for the money. The process of waiting for the TDIU award may take a year or longer...that's a long time to go with zero income. Vets may take work so that they can pay bills even though they're in pain or otherwise not doing very well with their health.

You should always be open and honest when reporting circumstances to the VA. If you worked at "gainful employment" and you paid taxes on the income and so on, you must tell VA on the 4140. However, you may also tell them the reasons you worked and why you left the work...but you must be careful how you phrase things. The wrong choice of words, innocently written to VA, could result in a review of your current rating and a proposal for reduction.

It may help you to learn more about the TDIU benefit here http://www.vawatchdog.org/tdiu-unemployability.html

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