The short answer is yes, you can receive both Workers Compensation and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits if you qualify for both disability benefits and workers' compensation.
They are separate programs. SSDI, which is run by the Social Security Administration (SSA), is federal program. Workers Compensation programs are run by your home state.
If you are unable to work because of a workplace injury or an occupational illness, you may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
To be approved for disability benefits, you must be completely unable to work for at least 12 months or have a condition that is expected to result in your death. If you can still work and earn a living, your claim will be denied because the SSA doesn’t award partial disability.
The Difference Between Workers' Comp. and SSDI
Of course, the qualifications for Workers Compensation are quite different than the qualifications used to determine whether you are totally disabled for the purpose of collecting Social Security Disability benefits, so it is entirely possible that you will qualify for one and not the other.
Workers' Compensation programs vary from state to state. Going in to all of the particulars of each state’s requirements and benefits is beyond our scope. If you have been hurt on the job and believe you may qualify for Workman’s compensation, you should consult your state authorities or a lawyer who is familiar with the Workers' Compensation laws in your state.
Most of the time, Workers' Compensation is designed to be temporary, affording employees who have been hurt on the job a period of continuing income while they heal or wait for acceptance for SSDI benefits.
Because they are separate entities, receiving Workers' Compensation does not disqualify you for SSDI nor does it negatively affect your chances of having your disability claim accepted.
How To Qualify For Disability Benefits
The SSA uses a medical guide, which is called the Blue Book, to determine if a claimant qualifies for disability benefits. The Blue Book has a list of conditions and specific medical criteria that must be met for a claimant to qualify under that specific listing.
There are sections in the book that cover all the different body systems and each system has a set of listings that apply to different medical problems that may be disabling.
As an example, if you are disabled because of cancer you will need to qualify using Section 13.00 of the Blue Book. That section addresses 30 different kinds of diseases that range from skin cancers to cancers that are of an unknown origin.
Each specific kind of cancer has its own set of medical criteria that must be met to be approved for disability benefits. In addition to meeting the specific criteria, the SSA will want evidence of the following:
- The origin of the cancer
- The extent of involvement or spread of the cancer
- Duration, frequency, and response to anti-cancer therapy
- Effects of any post-therapeutic residuals
To evaluate a disability claim for cancer, the SSA will use the site of the cancer’s origin if it is known. For example, if the individual has breast cancer that has spread into the chest cavity or back, Disability Determination Services will use the listing at 13.10 for breast cancer to evaluate the claim.
The listings in the cancer section of the Blue Book are examples of the different kinds of cancer that the SSA would consider severe enough to keep the individual from working and earning a living.
Not all kinds of cancer are listed in the Blue Book, and if there isn’t a specific listing for an individual’s condition, you may be able to meet another listing that has similar symptoms or limitations.
Medical documentation is a necessity for a successful disability claim. No claim can be approved without supporting medical evidence, such as medical test results, laboratory results, physician notes, surgical notes, treatment records, and so forth.
It is imperative to make a detailed list of all your medical providers with their contact details so they can all be contacted, and your records can be accessed. The more records that they have that they can review and consider, the more likely you are to have your claim approved.
How the Work Credits System Is Set Up
If you are filing for disability benefits, you need to understand how the work credits come into play with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). To qualify for SSDI, you must have worked long enough and frequently enough to have paid in adequate credits to the SSA to be covered by the program.
While age does come into play, in most cases it means having worked the equivalent of 5 years full-time out of the last 10 years. Usually you must have earned 40 credits to be eligible for SSDI with 20 of those credits having been earned in the last 10 years, ending in the year that you actually became disabled to work. Younger workers who become disabled may qualify with fewer credits.
Work credits are based on your total yearly wages or income earned from self-employment. You can earn as many as four credits per year. The amount needed to earn a credit does change annually, but as of 2024, you earn a credit for every $1,730 in income reported.
After you have earned $6,920 that year, you have earned your maximum four credits for that year.
Workers’ compensation has nothing to do with the SSA. Workers’ compensation is insurance that employers maintain to protect their workers and themselves if there is a workplace accident or an occupational illness.
If you are hurt while on the job, you will need to report it to your employer and then file a claim for workers’ compensation based on state laws and company policy. If the condition permanently disables you, you may be able to get a workers’ compensation settlement to cover your future loss of earnings.
Things to Consider
The one effect which collecting Workers' Compensation does have on SSDI is that the total income you receive from Workers' Compensation and SSDI cannot be more than 80% off your previous income.
If the money you are receiving from Workers' Compensation and the money you are entitled to through SSDI are greater than 80% of your prior income, the SSA will deduct enough money from your SSDI entitlement to bring your total under 80%. If your Workers' Compensation runs out while you are still collecting SSDI, notify the SSA and they will adjust your SSDI benefits appropriately.
It bears mentioning that any private disability insurance you may have, as well as any pensions, do not have any effect on how much you can receive from SSDI benefits. Even if your private disability income insurance payments cause your total income to be more than it was when you were working, your SSDI benefit amount will not be affected.
It is important to note, however, that the requirements for qualifying for disability through SSDI may be considerably different than the requirements for qualifying for Workers Compensation.
You are generally considered disabled for Workers Compensation purposes if you are no longer capable of performing the job you were doing when you were injured.
The Social Security Administration, on the other hand, has a very different definition of disability. To qualify for SSDI, you must be considered totally disabled. To qualify as totally disabled, you must demonstrate that you are unable to perform any work which you have ever performed for any employer. Furthermore, that you are unable to perform any meaningful work in any field in which you could reasonably be trained for. Additionally, your disabling condition must be expected to last over a year or be expected to result in your death.
Working with an Attorney
If you are unable to work, you should get your disability claim started as quickly as possible. Winning your workers’ compensation claim and receiving a settlement doesn’t affect your ability to pursue a disability claim and it doesn’t affect the outcome of your disability claim.
It can take several months to be approved for disability benefits, so the sooner you get your claim underway, the better off you will be. Medical documentation is a necessity for a disability claim.
When the SSA reviews your claim, they will consider more than your occupational illness or workplace injury. They will take any and all medical issues that you may have into consideration when determining your ability to work and if you are approved for benefits.
Individuals who are represented by a disability attorney are much more likely to have their disability claims approved and be awarded benefits.
Complete the Free Case Evaluation Form on this page to have the details of your case reviewed so you can determine the best way to proceed with your claim for disability benefits even if you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits already.
Remember, these claims take time so be sure to get your claim filed as soon as possible so you can get on the track to having the financial support that you need during this difficult time.
While you can collect Workers Compensation and SSDI at the same time, there are some advantages to applying for one before the other. These advantages vary from state to state.
If you plan on receiving both Workers Compensation and SSDI, you would be well advised to seek the advice of a lawyer who is experienced working with both Workers Comp and Social Security Disability claims.
In addition to advising you (regarding when you should apply for each type of benefit), they can also help structure your claims (and, if necessary, your appeals) for both programs in a way that is most likely to be accepted.