When someone suffers a work-related injury, they are usually eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. The workers’ comp program reimburses injured employees for reasonable and necessary medical expenses, a percentage of lost earnings, and rehabilitation and retraining costs.
In many cases, those who get injured at work are able to return within a few days or a few weeks. But in some instances, their injury or illness might be more serious, keeping them out of work for an extended period of time. When this happens, injured employees often wonder if they are able to collect both workers’ compensation and Social Security disability (SSD) during the time that they are out.
The answer to this question is – yes, you can collect workers’ compensation and Social Security disability benefits at the same time, as long as you can qualify for both programs. If you are able to qualify for both, there is a maximum amount in benefits that you are allowed to collect.
Qualifying for both programs simultaneously is far from a given, however. There are strict requirements you need to meet, and with both applications, you will be dealing with entities who generally err on the side of denying claimants if there is any doubt about their application.
In a situation like this, you will need attorneys who understand the claims process for both workers’ compensation and Social Security disability, how the two programs interact, and what is necessary to get qualified if you meet the eligibility requirements. With strong legal counsel by your side, you will have a much better chance of securing benefits from both programs.
How Difficult is it to Qualify for Workers’ Compensation and Social Security Disability?
Becoming approved for workers’ comp and SSD benefits can be very challenging, because as we touched on earlier, both programs routinely deny claimants who are eligible. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault program that is supposed to provide benefits to injured workers regardless of how their injury occurred (with a few exceptions), but in practice, the claims process is far more complicated than it should be.
Workers’ compensation insurers routinely look for reasons to deny a claimant. For example, they might allege that the injury was not work-related, happened because of a pre-existing condition, happened while the worker was not “on the clock”, or something similar. The insurer will often do this in hopes that the worker will get frustrated and give up on seeking the benefits that they deserve. If this type of situation has happened to you, get in touch with our office immediately to review your case and go over your legal options.
Getting approved for Social Security disability benefits is generally even more difficult than workers’ compensation. First of all, you need to meet the work requirements, which for most people means having worked for a total of at least 40 quarters (10 years) in the United States and having worked for at least five of the past 10 years.
Next, you will need to meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of a disability. To meet this definition, the following facts must be true:
- You are unable to perform work that you were previously able to do as a result of your medical condition.
- You are unable to participate in any other gainful activity because of your condition.
- Your medical condition/disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
This might seem simple enough, but even if the above facts are true in your case, there is still a pretty good chance that the SSA will deny your initial application for benefits. In fact, nationally, only about 35% of Social Security disability claimants are approved after submitting their initial application, and that number only improves to about 45% after the claimant files their first appeal. Because these benefits are so difficult to obtain, it is always recommended that an SSD applicant work with an experienced attorney.
Receiving Both Workers’ Compensation and SSD Benefits in Alabama
If you are approved for both workers’ comp and SSD benefits, federal law limits the combined amount in benefits to 80% of your average monthly wage. If the amount of the combined benefits exceeds this percentage, one of the programs must reduce their benefits to bring it back down to a total of 80%, which is known as an “offset”.
In Alabama and most other states, the Social Security Administration is the entity that does the offset. However, there are a handful of “reverse offset” states in which the workers’ compensation benefit is the one that gets reduced.
If you have a long-term injury that qualifies for both workers’ compensation and Social Security disability, there is a chance that at some point the workers’ comp insurer will offer a lump sum settlement rather than to continue paying benefits in perpetuity. This is something that can cause complications with your SSD benefits, especially if the settlement agreement is not drafted and worded properly. Be very careful to ensure that the agreement is written in a way that allows you to maximize your SSD benefits.
Work with Skilled and Knowledgeable Alabama Workplace Injury Lawyers
If you are dealing with a work-related injury that might qualify for both workers’ compensation and Social Security disability in Alabama, Burge & Burge is here to help! Call our office today at 205-251-9000 or message us online to schedule your free consultation and case assessment.