Sometimes, a workplace injury or illness is so serious that it causes a permanent disability. If it meets the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability, the injured person may well qualify for benefits through Social Security disability, usually through Social Security Disability Insurance. Yet injuries and illnesses caused by workplace activities are covered by the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation system, too.
There’s no reason you can’t get both kinds of benefits if you qualify. After all, you’re entitled to workers’ comp by law, and you’ve been paying into the Social Security system through your FICA taxes the whole time you’ve been working. You’ve earned a degree of stability.
If you do qualify for both workers’ comp and SSDI, however, you need to know that the two systems are set up to prevent you from receiving duplicate benefits. So yes, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry may reduce your total disability wage-loss benefits if you’re also receiving SSDI or certain other disability benefits. On the other hand, if you qualify for SSDI, the Social Security Administration may reduce your SSDI payment if you’re also receiving workers’ comp or certain other benefits.
If each agency is offsetting the other’s benefits, is it even worth it to apply for both?
It depends on your situation. If you’re receiving a variety of different benefits, you might see reductions from either Pennsylvania or the SSA — or both. The rules are slightly different.
For SSDI, the total benefits from all the sources it considers can’t exceed 80 percent of your average weekly wages before you became disabled. However, it only takes certain sources into account. Workers’ comp total disability pay is one of them, as are disability benefits through the civil service and certain types from state or local government agencies. VA disability benefits and SSI benefits to other family members are not considered.
Pennsylvania doesn’t have a cap like SSDI, but it does consider more kinds of benefits when it makes a decision to reduce your workers’ comp. Social Security disability, severance pay, unemployment insurance, employer contributions to retirement pensions, and other earnings can be offset from your total disability wage-loss payments at a rate of 50 cents per dollar you receive.
Ultimately, the best package of disability benefits for you will depend largely on the math. Your workers’ comp lawyer can help you consider your options.