The Differences Between Workers’ Compensation and Social Security Disability Benefits

North Carolina’s workers’ compensation system and federal Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can act as safety nets for people who are unable to work because of a disability. Although the two systems have a similar goal – providing much-needed benefits to disabled workers – there are significant differences between them.

Some disabled workers may be entitled to benefits from both workers’ compensation and SSDI. However, there are important factors that must be taken into consideration to ensure that benefits from one program do not reduce the benefits available from the other.

Your best option is to work with experienced disability benefits attorneys like the ones at Riddle & Brantley, LLP. Our lawyers have over 160 years of combined experience practicing law. We understand the North Carolina workers’ compensation system and the Social Security disability system – and how the two affect each other.

We are ready to review your situation and advise you about your best option for receiving the maximum disability benefits you deserve. Contact us now for a free consultation about your right to disability benefits.

 Is Your Disability Work-Related?

Workers Comp Situations Some disabled workers wrongly believe that Social Security is their only option for disability benefits. However, if your disability is due to a work-related accident or illness, you may be entitled to disability benefits from workers’ compensation instead of or in addition to SSDI.

In addition to paying the medical expenses related to a workplace injury or illness, workers’ comp also offers disability benefits to workers who must miss at least seven days of work due to their work-related injury or illness. Workers’ compensation disability benefits replace two-thirds of a worker’s lost weekly wages, up to a cap. For 2016, the maximum weekly compensation rate is $944.

Unlike SSDI, which pays disability benefits only if you are unable to perform any work due to a disability that is expected to last at least 12 months or end in death, workers’ compensation disability benefits are available for workers who are partially disabled and those who face a temporary period of disability.

There are four main kinds of workers’ compensation disability benefits:

  • Temporary total disability
  • Temporary partial disability
  • Permanent partial disability
  • Total permanent disability

The legal team at Riddle & Brantley, LLP, includes two attorneys who have earned board certification in workers’ compensation law: Chris Brantley and Adam Smith. Our experienced lawyers can help you recover the full workers’ compensation disability benefits that you deserve.

Is It Possible to Receive Multiple Benefits at the Same Time?

Work InjuryWorkers’ compensation disability benefits and Social Security disability benefits are not mutually exclusive. Some disabled workers qualify for both.

Unlike workers’ compensation, the Social Security system requires that an applicant is prevented from working due to a disability that is expected to last for 12 months or end in death. For SSDI purposes, it does not matter what caused the disability. It may be completely unrelated to your work. However, there are no SSDI benefits available for short-term or partial disabilities.

One way in which work does factor into SSDI eligibility involves the number of “credits” an applicant has earned throughout his or her career. SSDI functions like an insurance policy. Claimants must have worked and paid into the system long enough in order to claim benefits.

If you are facing a long-term disability due to a work-related injury or illness, you may qualify for SSDI benefits in addition to the disability benefits you receive from workers’ compensation. Because workers’ compensation disability benefits are often paid all at once as a lump sum, disabled workers must be careful about how a workers’ comp settlement may affect their eligibility for SSDI.

Federal law caps the total amount of public disability benefits an individual may receive. The total amount of workers’ compensation disability benefits and SSDI cannot exceed 80 percent of the claimant’s average current earnings before he or she became disabled. If the total benefits exceed the cap, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will reduce SSDI payments by the amount of “excess” benefits the claimant receives.

The SSA provides this example:

Before you became disabled, your average earnings were $4,000 a month. You, your spouse, and your two children would be eligible to receive a total of $2,200 a month in Social Security disability benefits. You also receive $2,000 a month from workers’ compensation. Because the total amount of benefits you would receive ($4,200) is more than 80 percent ($3,200) of your average current earnings ($4,000), your family’s Social Security benefits will be reduced by $1,000 ($4,200 – $3,200).

If you receive a large lump-sum workers’ compensation settlement, you may be unable to receive the SSDI benefits you would otherwise be entitled to. This makes it very important to work with an experienced attorney who understands both systems and can work to structure your workers’ compensation payments in such a way to eliminate or reduce their effect on your SSDI benefits.

Don’t Leave Money on the Table. Get Help with Your Disability Benefits Now

Workers Compensation FallWorkers’ compensation and SSDI are intended to provide disabled workers with the money they need to get by while they are unable to work. Both systems can be quite complex standing alone. Those complexities are multiplied when the two programs are combined.

To ensure that you get the full benefits that you deserve from both workers’ compensation and SSDI, it is critical to work with lawyers who understand both programs and how they work together.

Riddle & Brantley, LLP, believes that Justice Counts. Our experienced attorneys work hard to make sure disabled workers get the justice they deserve when dealing with state and federal disability benefits. Together, our lawyers have over 160 years of legal experience helping people from all over North Carolina secure the compensation they deserve. We are ready to help you too.

For a free consultation about your right to disability benefits, call or contact us online now.

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