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The Interplay of Workers’ Compensation and Social Security Disability Benefits

What many people who have been injured on the job don't know is that, if their injury is severe enough and meets certain criteria, they may be able to seek both workers' compensation and Social Security Disability benefits. In fact, it is possible that work comp benefits may be combined with a number of different pension, Veterans' Assistance and Supplemental Security Income benefits depending on the unique financial situation of the injured worker.

While it may indeed be possible for work comp benefits to be provided concurrently with Social Security Disability (SSD / SSDI) payments, the combined total of the two types of compensation cannot exceed 80 percent of the injured worker's original, pre-injury salary. It is important to understand how these systems work together in order to maximize the amount of compensation available and not jeopardize the right to receive future benefits.

What Is Work Comp?

Workers' compensation is designed to provide benefits (i.e., monetary compensation) to workers who have been injured while on the job. Work comp policies are paid for by employers and kick in when employees are hurt in the line of duty. In addition to paying a portion of the salary the injured employee would normally receive if he or she was able to work, workers' compensation also ensures that medical bills and other expenses incurred to treat a work-related injury are paid.

Workers' compensation benefits are payable in different ways, either through weekly payments or in a lump sum. Payment amounts are determined based on a number of factors, including:

  • Salary before injury
  • Type of injury
  • Time estimated to recover
  • Level of recovery that can be reached
  • Effect the injury has on the victim's work situation (i.e., if victim will be able to return to the same position after recovery)

Depending on the type of benefits sought and received, a work comp recipient might also have the option of applying for SSD benefits. It is important, however, to recognize how these two systems work together before settling a claim for either type of benefit, particularly before settling a work comp claim.

Social Security Disability Benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are provided by the federal government for people with a history of employment who are physically or mentally unable to work. There are specific rules about who qualifies for SSDI, which can be difficult to obtain. SSDI benefits are subject to offset by certain types of public benefits and other income, including:

  • State or local government benefits when Social Security taxes are not deducted from them
  • Private, taxable wages
  • Workers' compensation benefits

The purpose of the offset is to ensure that the total combination of SSDI payments and workers' compensation or other public disability benefits does not exceed 80 percent of the injured worker's pre-injury average wages. The offset will occur regardless of whether payments are in a lump sum, weekly, bi-weekly or quarterly form.

Filing for Both Workers' Comp and SSDI

The most important thing a person who is interested in filing claims for both workers' compensation and SSDI needs to know is that navigating both systems can be complicated. It is easy for one false move to result in a denial of benefits. Furthermore, someone who isn't familiar with the legal nuances involved may accept a settlement that is not in his or her best interests.

Before you make a decision about a possible work comp settlement, seek the advice of an attorney in your area who has the skills necessary to handle the interplay between workers' compensation and Social Security Disability.