Some of the hard-working people who are suffering from disabilities become disabled on the job due to an accident or other unfortunate event. This may qualify them for workers' compensation benefits. The question is, if the disability that occurred due to the work-related injury is expected to last a year or more, can these individuals also qualify for Social Security Disability benefits? Many of the people who receive workers' compensation question if they can also receive disability payments from the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you are wondering how workers' comp benefits affect your eligibility for disability payments, the following information may answer the questions you have been asking.
Receiving Workers' Compensation and Social Security Disability Benefits
If you are injured on the job and suffer a disability because of it, there is nothing to prevent you from applying for Social Security Disability benefits in addition to the workers' compensation benefits. You will, however, need to meet the SSA’s requirements to be approved for the benefits you are applying for.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits you must have a disabling condition that meets the guidelines published by the SSA and your condition must be expected to last one year or more. If you do not meet the guidelines set forth by the SSA, you will not be able to qualify for disability benefits regardless of whether or not you qualify for workers' compensation payments.
How Much Can You Receive?
It is important to understand that your Social Security Disability payments may be offset by the amount of workers' compensation benefits you will be receiving. Congress passed an amendment to Social Security in 1965 allowing the SSA to offset the benefits received by applicants so that the total amount of the monthly workers compensation benefits combined with the Social Security Disability payments do not exceed 80 percent of the worker's average current earnings. Your average current earnings are calculated by taking the best year of income in the five years prior to the onset of your disability.
Let's say, for example, that the SSA determines that your average current earnings are $3,000 per month and the workers' compensation benefits that have been awarded to you are $1,200 per month. Let's also say that you technically qualify for $1,500 per month in Social Security Disability payments. Your total combined benefit would be $2,700 per month between your disability payments and your workers' comp payments. That amount exceeds the 80-percent cap mandated by congress. According to the offset rules, your combined benefits cannot exceed $2,400 (based on average current earnings of $3,000). Because of this, your monthly Social Security Disability benefit would be reduced from $1,500 per month to $1,200 per month. Once your workers' compensation benefits have stopped, your disability payments could then increase to the $1,500 per month to which you are entitled.
A Stronger Workers' Compensation Case
Sometimes being awarded Social Security Disability benefits can actually help your claim for workers' compensation benefits. Depending on the state in which you live, a determination of disability from the SSA can be used to argue a case for enhanced workers' compensation benefits. It is important to note, however, that this is not the case in every state and you should discuss your particular case with your disability attorney.
Hiring a Disability Attorney
If you are receiving workers' compensation benefits and plan on applying for Social Security Disability benefits to supplement your workers' comp payments, you should retain the services of a qualified disability lawyer. Your lawyer will help you understand how one benefit will affect the other in your particular disability case. Because each case is different, consulting with an attorney is the best way to understand the specifics of your particular claim.
It is important to note that some disability attorneys may require that a portion of your workers' comp payment be used to pay for their services. Usually a disability attorney will only receive a portion of the back payment awarded to a claimant by the SSA. If you receive workers' comp benefits, however, the offset created by those benefits may affect your back payment of disability benefits. Because of this, your attorney may require other arrangements in order to cover the cost of his or her legal services. Again, this will not always be the case and will depend on the specifics surrounding your disability claim. Your attorney can help you determine whether or not your workers' comp settlement will affect your Social Security Disability back pay.