Can I Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits and Social Security Disability Benefits at the Same Time? How Do I Carefully Maximize Both?

Yes. If you have had a significant work injury, which, by itself or in combination with another non-work related disability, causes a physical or mental impairment that will likely continue for one (1) year or longer, there are, in fact, several good reasons for seeking both types of benefits.

Eligibility for both Workers’ Compensation and SSD benefits is a win-win situation. In addition to eligibility for Medicare Health Insurance coverage, Social Security allows you to receive combined Social Security Disability (SSD) and Workers’ Compensation benefits up to 80% of your pre-disability Average Current Earnings (ACE). The receipt of SSD benefits will not reduce your workers’ compensation benefits. The ACE calculation is done by the Social Security Administration (SSA) using several different methods, and the calculation most favorable to the SSD applicant is the one selected by the SSA. Workers’ Compensation Benefits are generally paid at a rate of 66 2/3% of your pre-injury Average Weekly Wage (AWW), which is calculated using several methods, the most common method being an average of the wages earned from the highest three quarters in year prior to the work injury. There is a statutory cap on the amount you can receive in Workers’ Compensation benefits based upon what is annually determined to be the State Wide Average Weekly Wage. Since you are permitted by the SSA to receive combined SSD and Workers’ Compensation benefits equal to 80% of your pre-disability income, SSD will still pay monthly benefits representing the difference between the Workers’ Compensation benefits received and the 80% ACE amount. SSD, therefore, provides a supplemental income source for injured workers who are only receiving two-thirds or less of their prior earnings through Workers’ Compensation. If you are a particularly high wage earner, you may be entitled to payment of Workers’ Compensation benefits at the maximum statutory rate and the maximum SSD benefits that you would be eligible for if you were not receiving any Workers’ Compensation wage loss benefits at all. Additionally, if your SSD benefits are adjusted based upon the Workers’ Compensation benefits you receive, a reduction or termination of your Workers’ Compensation benefit will, in most instances, result in an increase in the amount of your SSD benefits, corresponding to the loss of those Workers’ Compensation Benefits. This is true even if the only reduction in the amount of Workers’ Compensation benefits being paid directly to you is due to attorney fees charged by your Workers’ Compensation lawyer. There is no offset by receipt of workers’ compensation benefits if you are receiving Social Security disabled widow’s benefits.

Also, if you settle your Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation case, you may be eligible to receive a substantial lump sum payment and, as a result, still receive full or nearly full SSD benefits as well. Most Workers’ Compensation settlements (called a Compromise and Release Agreement), include language drafted by your attorney which is intended to maximize the SSD benefits payable to you when your SSD benefits are recalculated after the settlement. This language provides for a proration of the amount of the settlement (after costs, attorneys fees, and medical expenses (if settled) are deducted) over your life expectancy. In other words, it calculates the amount of Workers’ Compensation benefits being paid monthly over your lifetime under the terms of the settlement even though the settlement was paid in one lump sum. While the SSA is not required to use the calculation method contained in the Workers’ Compensation settlement documents (there are at least two other calculations the SSA can use), the SSA does, for the most part, adopt the calculations outlined in the Compromise and Release Agreement when determining future SSD payments. When done properly, you often can obtain the lump sum payment from the settlement to use immediately as you choose, and you also can increase the amount of the future SSD benefits you receive as well. The key is to maximize the Workers’ Compensation settlement without substantially impacting your SSD benefit entitlement. To accomplish this maximization of both your SSD and Workers’ Compensation, it is, in most instances, advisable to seek advice from a knowledgeable attorney familiar with these specific areas of the law.