Claiming workers’ compensation and Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) simultaneously can often feel challenging. It requires understanding how each benefit operates individually and knowing how they interact with each other.
If you’ve been injured at your workplace or you have a disability that affects your ability to work fully or effectively, knowing about these benefits is fundamentally important. Fortunately, in the US, you can collect workers’ compensation and SSDI benefits at the same time.
In this guide, we’ll explore both of these mechanisms and provide clarity on how you could claim them at the same time in order to maximize your entitled disability benefits.
How Workers’ Compensation Works
Workers’ compensation insurance is coverage employers purchase to help employees injured at work afford their medical care. Workers’ compensation law varies by state, but usually, an employer doesn’t have to offer this benefit if they employ a certain number of employees.
Keep in mind that workers can get workers’ compensation and receive supplemental income, disability benefits, or payment for their medical expenses even if they weren’t on the work premises. As long as they were performing their work duties at the time of the injury, they qualify. If you were traveling for work or working from home, it could still count.
How Social Security Disability Insurance Works
Social Security Disability Insurance, commonly known as SSDI, is a program that offers benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are unable to work due to a medical condition.
The crucial aspect of this program is that it’s based on your previous work history. If you’ve worked a job, you’ve likely paid into SSDI. And when life takes an unfortunate turn, leaving you disabled and unable to work, SSDI acts as a safety net, providing monthly benefits.
Similar to workers’ compensation, SSDI is paid out when you have a disability that prevents you from working. Unlike workers’ compensation, you can get SSDI whether your disability occurred at work or not. The way to get approval for SSDI is different than for workers’ compensation.
How to Collect Both at the Same Time
Collecting SSDI and workers’ comp at the same time is possible, but you need to know what you’re doing. Here’s how you can collect SSDI and workers’ compensation together.
Look at the Eligibility Criteria for Disability Benefits
SSDI and workers’ compensation are two separate entities, so getting one doesn’t disqualify you from another. What can disqualify you is if you don’t meet the eligibility criteria for both.
To qualify for both benefits, the accident must occur while performing your work duties. You also have to pass SSDI’s eligibility requirements, which include:
- Earning enough working credits over the past 10 years
- Paying into SSDI through your previous or current employer
- A condition that’s qualified as a disability
- Being unable to work for at least a year OR;
- Having a condition that could result in your death
While workers’ compensation is more temporary, SSDI benefits are more long-term. Keep in mind that you may receive less money from Social Security if you choose to get both.
Understand What Qualifies for a Disability
Workers’ compensation and SSDI have different definitions of what constitutes a “disability.”
To get workers’ compensation, you just need to be unable to work your current job, either temporarily or permanently. To get SSDI, you need to prove that you’re disabled to the point that you can’t perform any job or career option you’ve done in the past, now, or in the future.
If you do qualify for SSDI but not workers’ compensation because the accident didn’t occur at work, you can still qualify for permanent total disability benefits.
You can also qualify for permanent partial disability benefits through workers’ comp if you got a lower-paid job after you returned to work. However, you won’t qualify for SSDI.
Know How to Get Approved for Both Benefits
To get approved for both benefits, you’ll need to fill out a number of forms and complete certain tasks. These include reporting your injury to your employer. However, since there’s a chance your application won’t be approved, you’ll also need to do your due diligence by:
- Completing Form WC-14 and filing it with the SBWC
- Sending a copy of Form WC-14 to your employer and their insurance company
- Getting treated for any medical condition caused by the injury ASAP
- Contacting a lawyer who can ensure you get the help you need
Never underestimate the power of a good lawyer. If you can’t afford to seek legal help, we recommend speaking to a pro bono lawyer, as they’ll only ask for payment after winning your case. Make sure you research your options in your local jurisdiction.
Also, it’s important to note that there’s a statute of limitations for when you can file a worker’s compensation claim. The length of time you have to file a claim is dependent on your state. SSDI benefits don’t have a statute of limitations, but if you want to claim worker’s compensation and SSDI at the same time, you’ll want to complete both applications as soon as possible.
How SSDI and Workers’ Comp Affect Your Other Benefits
As stated, receiving workers’ compensation benefits and SSDI simultaneously will reduce your SSDI benefits. Suppose you receive any other public disability benefit, such as the civil service and state temporary disability benefits or any state or local government retirement benefit that’s based on a disability. In that case, there’s a high chance these will also affect your Social Security benefit.
However, there are three public benefits you can receive that won’t reduce your SSDI benefits:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Veterans Administration Benefits
- Any approved state and local government benefits as long as Social Security taxes were deducted from your earnings prior to you receiving said benefits.
Any private disability benefits, such as private pensions, won’t affect your SSDI benefits. If your benefits are public and aren’t a part of the “exception list,” you’ll need to determine how much your SSDI benefits will be reduced. Fortunately, the calculation is very simple.
How to Determine Your SSDI Reduction
The Social Security Administration (SSA) explains that the entire amount received from all disability benefits can’t exceed 80% of your average earnings before becoming disabled. If the total amount exceeds 80%, the excess is deducted from Social Security benefits.
The SSA uses different calculations to determine your average income, but they’ll typically take your gross yearly income and divide it by the average number of working weeks (47 or 48). For example, if you made $60,000 before you became disabled, your weekly income would be $1,276.60 for 47 weeks or $1,250 for 48 weeks, or $5,106.38 or $5,000 a month, respectively.
Since the amount you receive from these benefits can’t exceed 80% of your average earnings per month, you would only receive $4,085.09 or $4,000 per month (instead of the $5,106.38 or $5,000 per month). Keep in mind that your Social Security benefits will be reduced until you reach full retirement (or “full benefit”) age, which is either 66 and 2 months or 67.
The calculation may differ if you’ve received a lump-sum payment or your other benefits were reduced. If you lose access to workers’ compensation, you’ll get more money from SSDI if you report these changes. You’ll need documented proof of said changes.
Is It Worth Getting Both, Even With the Deduction?
That depends on how much money you get when you combine all your benefits. Let’s take a look at whether you’ll benefit from workers’ compensation and SSDI benefits.
When You Would Benefit From Workers’ Comp and SSDI
Let’s say you’re only eligible to receive workers’ compensation and SSDI benefits. If, when added together, they exceed your average monthly earnings before you were disabled, then applying for both will benefit you. Since workers’ compensation pays out two-thirds of your gross salary, you’ll almost always receive more money if you combine it with the SSDI benefit.
Getting SSDI over workers’ compensation is often the best move, regardless, because SSDI can last a lifetime, whereas worker’s compensation is temporary. If you qualify for both, but your workers’ compensation benefits deduce your SSDI to virtually nothing, you should still get SSDI.
It’s much easier to report changes for a disability benefit than it is to file for one. Not only that, but it can take a long time to get approved for any sort of disability benefit, meaning you could be without an income source while you wait. Going through the SSDI application process now will save you time and money in the future and ensure you’re comfortable.
When You Wouldn’t Benefit From Workers’ Comp and SSDI
The only way you wouldn’t benefit from getting workers’ comp and SSDI at the same time is if your other long-term disability benefits make it so that you don’t receive any money from SSDI.
For example, if you make $5,000 a month and the amount you get from civil service disability benefits and state or local government disability retirement benefits exceeds $5,000, then SSDI would pay out $0. If you also receive workers’ comp along with those benefits, but your other benefits exceed $5,000 even after you lose workers’ comp, then SSDI would also pay out $0.
You would still benefit from getting both workers’ comp and SSDI if you also receive public benefits that are on the “exception list” or private benefits, as SSDI benefits won’t be reduced.
We hope that this guide has shown you how to collect workers’ compensation and disability benefits at the same time. Just remember, understanding your rights and benefits is essential to ensuring you gain the most out of these benefits. As complex as it seems, don’t be hesitant to seek help if needed. Knowledge is power when dealing with such matters!