How Does Workers’ Compensation Affect Your Ability to Collect Social Security Disability Benefits
Your worker's compensation case may have a very significant impact upon your Social Security case. In most cases, if you are receiving weekly wage benefits from workers’ compensation, those payments will offset - dollar for dollar - your right to receive Social Security Disability or SSI payments.
Here is an example: Tom was injured on the job on May 15, 2000. He began received workers’ compensation benefits of $300 per week and continued to receive $300 per week until May 30, 2003, when he settled his workers’ compensation case for $50,000.
On June 20, 2000, Tom applied for Social Security. His case was denied at initial and reconsideration and he finally got his Social Security ALJ hearing on September 7, 2003. Tom was awarded benefits at his hearing.
Although Tom was eligible for past due benefits from May, 2000 through September, 2003, his monthly Social Security check of $1,000 per month was offset by his workers’ compensation until June, 2003. Therefore, Tom’s past due Social Security payment was for June, 2003 - September, 2003 only.
Include a Lifetime Benefit Clause
in Your Workers’ Comp. Settlement Agreement
In most cases, your worker's compensation settlement can be structured as a lifetime pay out, thereby reducing or eliminating your worker's compensation offset. Thus, in Tom’s case, the $50,000 settlement from workers’ compensation was seen by Social Security as $138 per month based on Tom’s expected lifespan of 30 more years. His monthly payment, therefore, will be $862 rather than $1,000.
If you have a worker's compensation claim, it is crucial that you advise both your Social Security and your workers compensation lawyer about it. You should also obtain a copy of your settlement documents as the Social Security Administration will need these papers.
A favorable Social Security decision may also make your workers’ compensation case stronger. In some States, a finding of total disability by Social Security can be used to argue for an enhancement of workers' compensation benefits. This is not the case in every State, but you should discuss with your workers compensation lawyer whether it is applicable to you.
Many Social Security lawyers also handle workers compensation claims and you may find it to your benefit to have one lawyer handle both claims.