Workers’ Compensation May Affect SSDI Benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and workers' compensation benefits are the nation's largest disability programs. More workers take advantage of these benefits than any other program. Though it is possible to receive SSDI and workers' compensation benefits simultaneously, doing so will affect the monthly SSDI payment claimants receive.

The Difference Between Workers' Compensation and SSDI

Workers' compensation is immediately available to employees who are injured or become ill as a result of a workplace injury or the workplace environment. Workers' compensation can be used for temporary injury or permanent injury and only applies to conditions acquired while on the job.

In contrast, benefits from SSDI are available to people who are permanently disabled regardless of whether their injury was sustained in the workplace. To be eligible for SSDI benefits, individuals must be under age 65, the full retirement age, and must have paid into the Social Security system for at least five out of the last ten years, ending with the year the individual became disabled. Lastly, their condition must be included on the Social Security Administration's list of eligible conditions and be expected to last at least a year and prevent someone from working in any capacity.

How Worker's Compensation Can Affect SSDI Benefits

In December 2003, 17 percent of the 7.6 million people on SSDI benefits also received workers' compensation or public disability benefits. When individuals are able to claim both workers' compensation and SSDI benefits, the Social Security Administration uses a series of factors to calculate an appropriate payment.

As a rule, the Social Security Administration requires that combined benefits cannot total more than 80 percent of an individual's average current earnings prior to the onset of his or her condition. Average current earnings could simply be a worker's average monthly wage, or it could be his or her average monthly earnings over a number of years leading to the injury. However, benefits can never be less than what the individual's total SSDI benefits would have been before the reduction.

When Should Injured Workers Apply for SSDI Benefits?

Workers injured on the job should apply for SSDI benefits as soon as possible after establishing eligibility. Remember, workers must be permanently disabled to receive SSDI benefits, meaning that they must have a condition that prevents them from working and is expected to last at least a year.

If these conditions are met and a worker has paid into the Social Security System for at least ten years, he or she should apply immediately for SSDI benefits. Since the application process is tricky and can result in a denial and subsequent appeals, interested parties should contact an experienced workers' compensation attorney.