If you’ve been hurt or made ill by something at work, you apply for workers’ compensation, right? Right. If you’ve suffered a disabling injury or medical condition that will keep you from working for a year or longer, you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance, right? Right.
What if both are true?
In Pennsylvania, people who have suffered disabling workplace injuries or illnesses qualify for disability benefits through the workers’ compensation system. If you’re completely unable to work according to American Medical Association standards, you can apply for total disability benefits — and you may also qualify for specific loss benefits if you suffer certain types of bodily harm. Temporary disability benefits are also available.
The disability benefits offered through the workers’ comp program typically include wage-loss payments as well as coverage for your medical care. You can expect to receive about two-thirds of your average weekly pay, up to a certain threshold. If you receive total disability benefits for two years, your employer can require you to get a medical evaluation to determine if you’re still totally disabled or could work with restrictions. If so, your status will change to partially disabled. Partial disability benefits last a maximum of 500 weeks (almost 10 years). However, you can also request a medical evaluation seeking a return to total disability status.
How might Social Security disability come into play?
Working people who meet the Social Security Administration’s criteria for permanent disability may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance whether or not the disability is work-related. It’s perfectly legal and appropriate to apply for both workers’ comp and SSDI.
That said, the effects of the programs aren’t quite cumulative. According to the Social Security Administration some types of benefits, including workers’ comp wage-loss benefits, will be deducted from your SSDI benefits if the total amount you’re receiving totals 80 percent of your average earnings before you became disabled. At the same time, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry can also reduce your benefits: If you receive SSDI, unemployment insurance, severance pay or certain other income, your wage-loss payments can be reduced by 50 cents for every dollar you receive.
A disabling injury is tough, and you’ll need all the help you can get. If you have questions about which option is likely to get you the most help, an attorney can answer them for you.