Matthew: Hello, and welcome to another edition of Hill & Ponton Veterans Video Blog. I’m Matthew Hill.
Carol: I’m Carol Ponton.
Matthew: Today we’d like to talk to you about a specific area of unemployability that is known as sheltered work environment.
First let me back up and give a recap of unemployability. It is something that we see a lot and we get lots of questions about. If you look on our blog, we have written extensively about it. It’s called Total Disability Due to Individual Unemployability, but most veterans know it as IU or unemployability.
Essentially, the VA acknowledges that there are some situations where a veteran’s rating does not properly match the extent of the disability in that the veteran cannot work due to the disability.
The one we see all the time: a veteran has 70% for PTSD and they can’t work. The VA admits that they can’t work because of it, and they give them 100% through the unemployability. The same with the back and radiculopathy in the legs. We’ll see that at 60%, and then they’ll bridge that gap to 100%.
The schedule or rating – meaning the ratings you can get individually and the ratings you can get combined together – the closer you get to 100%, it’s harder to get there.
One area that we see a lot with unemployability is sheltered employment. Individual employability is actually a misnomer because you can work and get unemployability. You can work and make under $10,000, or under the poverty line, and you can get unemployability but you could work and make $100,000.
Carol: It would be a lot harder.
Matthew: What is important is how the work is set up. The VA acknowledges that some jobs, some work environments, are sheltered work environments.
Essentially, that means that the job was created just for that person. It is a family business, and they gave their son a job just because they know he can’t work. He might even do anything at the business, but they give him a paycheck. Same thing from a friend or even a big corporation. What you’ll see is a job created specifically for that person where they are given all kinds of breaks.
Carol: If you have a migraine and you have to go home and lie down for three days, it’s okay.
Matthew: Yes, leniencies that others don’t get. Are there examples you’ve seen?
Carol: It’s harder to prove these. You can prove them, but it basically has to be where this person really isn’t working a regular job. This person is just doing whatever they can, whenever they can, and you would not hire somebody off the street and pay them for this. It’s clearly someone who cares about you has set up and made not really a real job. That is why it’s called sheltered work.
Matthew: They might be doing work. We talked about basically just getting a paycheck. There are situations where the person is doing work but, as Carol said, they can go home because they have a migraine. They might have a bad temper and, for that reason, they are kept totally apart from anyone else. It just depends.
I think one of the key ways we’re able to prove this is when we’re able to get an honest statement from the employer who basically will say, “I created this.” The question I will always ask them to answer in a statement is, “If this veteran leaves, will you still keep somebody in this job or will you hire somebody for this position?” If the answer is no, that tells you right on his face that it is a sheltered job.
Carol: Once again, it shows you how complex the VA law is, how many different ways you can get to where you want to go if you know what he law is.
Matthew: In a situation like this, you just want to look and see – this is a really small one, but we do see it – if the person is working but that work is not something that other people in the company are doing.
If it’s a family environment, that is very easy to see because you can see them just giving a paycheck or just creating a job. When it’s a bigger employer or someone who is not known to the family, that is a little harder. But if the spouse or the veteran looks around and says, “There are lot of things this veteran is able to do that the others can’t,” that is a good indication that it is sheltered employment.
Thank you again for joining us on the Hill & Ponton Veterans Video Blog. We look forward to seeing you next time around.