If a job-related injury will have you completely disabled from work for a year or longer, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. These are benefits you have paid for through deductions from your paychecks, so you should apply if you qualify.
Generally, the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers you to be eligible for SSDI benefits as long as:
- You have a medical condition that meets the definition of “disability,” which basically means it will keep you from undertaking any gainful work for at least a year or will result in your death, and
- You have earned sufficient Social Security work credits to qualify for the program (note: if you have not, you may be eligible for another disability program called Supplemental Security Income)
If you are in this situation because of a work injury, you may already be receiving workers’ compensation benefits. It’s important to understand that you can qualify for both workers’ comp and SSDI, but the amount you receive in workers’ comp benefits may be used to reduce your SSDI check.
This could occur if your workers’ comp benefits (and other public disability benefits you or your family members may be receiving) exceed 80% of your average earnings before you became disabled.
Here’s an example of what could happen:
Suppose that, before you became disabled, you were earning $4,000 per month. Now, you are receiving $2,000 per month from workers’ compensation. You are also eligible for $2,200 per month in SSDI.
80% of your pre-disability paycheck is $3,200. Since the total benefits you are eligible for ($4,200 per month) exceeds 80% of your pre-disability paycheck, your SSDI benefits will be reduced by $1,000 so that the total you receive in benefits does not exceed 80% of your pre-disability paycheck.
Therefore, you are legally required to notify the SSA of any workers’ comp or public disability benefits you are receiving and to keep the agency updated if those benefits change.
In general, the SSA will reduce your SSDI benefits when you also receive:
- Workers’ comp
- Federal, state or local benefits for disabilities that are non-job-related (such as civil service disability benefits or state temporary disability benefits)
- State or local government retirement benefits that are based on disability
The SSA will NOT reduce your SSDI benefits when you also receive:
- Private pensions
- Private insurance benefits, such as employer-based short- or long-term disability insurance
Is it advisable to apply for both workers’ comp and SSDI?
It generally is, but it may not be in your specific situation. An experienced Social Security Disability attorney can help you run the numbers to determine if you would receive more in benefits by applying for both.