Can you claim Social Security Disability as well as workers’ compensation?

Worker hands installing bitumen roof shinglesWork-related injuries contribute to about 1 in 20 cases of disability, according to the Council for Disability Awareness. Workers’ compensation insurance provides financial support to Illinois workers who have suffered disabling job-related injuries or illnesses. However, as any Illinois Social Security attorneys can explain, some of these workers may additionally be eligible to collect Social Security Disability benefits.

Two distinct systems

The SSD and workers’ compensation systems are entirely separate. States administer workers’ compensation programs, whereas Social Security benefits are awarded through federal programs. Receiving workers’ compensation benefits does not disqualify a person from seeking SSD benefits.

Unfortunately, qualifying for workers’ compensation does not guarantee eligibility for SSD benefits, due to the differences between the systems. Illinois law requires employers to provide workers’ compensation insurance, and injured workers are covered regardless of their earnings. Furthermore, the workers’ compensation system provides benefits to workers with short-term or partial disabilities. These conditions are not generally considered disabling under Social Security standards.

SSD eligibility criteria

The Social Security Administration employs strict criteria when evaluating whether an individual is disabled. A person must meet the following requirements to be eligible for SSD benefits:

  • The disabling condition must be expected to result in mortality or persist longer than 12 months.
  • The person cannot be capable of doing any work he or she has performed in the past.
  • The disabling condition must prevent the person from taking up a new type of work.

People who qualify for or receive workers’ compensation benefits must prove they also meet the SSA’s criteria. Illinois Social Security attorneys can attest that providing adequate medical documentation is critical for people claiming disability benefits, given these strict standards.

In addition to meeting medical criteria, people seeking SSD benefits must fulfill financial requirements. First, beneficiaries cannot engage in substantial gainful activity. In 2015, this is defined as work generating monthly income over $1,090, with an exception for statutorily blind individuals, who can earn up to $1,820. A beneficiary also must have paid enough in Social Security taxes, both cumulatively and in recent years, to qualify as insured.

Interaction between benefits

A person who qualifies for both workers’ compensation benefits and SSD benefits may receive a reduced SSD payment. As most Illinois Social Security attorneys know, private disability benefits don’t affect SSD benefits. However, public disability benefits are capped at 80 percent of a worker’s prior average wages. SSD benefits may be lowered while a beneficiary collects workers’ compensation benefits. However, once workers’ compensation benefits cease, SSD payments may be increased accordingly.