Yes, social security disability affects workers comp benefits in most cases, at least for awhile. Many seriously injured workers with cervical or lumbar herniated disc injuries end up with neck or low back surgery and permanent work restrictions preventing them from returning to their former occupation. If the restrictions are so severe that the worker cannot engage in any gainful employment, he or she may be totally disabled for social security disability purposes in addition to having a claim for worker’s compensation benefits. In Wisconsin this is called the social security reverse offset. In Wisconsin an injured worker’s temporary total disability benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, permanent total disability benefits and some vocational retraining benefits are reduced according to a formula so that his combined SSD and worker’s comp benefits do not exceed 80% of his average current earnings. Injured workers in most other states have their social security disability benefits reduced by what they receive in worker’s compensation benefits. Not all social security benefits are subject to the reverse offset, for example social security supplemental income benefits, dependent benefits and cost of living increases are not included in the offset calculation.
For the injured worker, the decision on whether to apply for social security disability benefits at the same time as worker’s compensation benefits can be complicated. Generally speaking, under SSD rules, a person must be totally disabled for 12 months. For some injured workers, it may be better to apply immediately to get SSD and the consequences of the offset if and when workers’ compensation benefits hare awarded. For others, it may make more sense to hold off applying for SSD, settle the worker’s compensation claim for a lump sum settlement first, and then investigate SSD benefits so that there is no offset to apply. Every person’s case is unique there is no guarantee that one choice is better than the other because it is not possible to predict the outcome of a SSD application or a workers’ compensation application.
At McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin our attorneys get the best results in workers compensation claims involving social security disability offset issues by having a thorough discussion with our injured worker client. We also need to review the medical expert opinions and vocational expert opinions to estimate the likelihood of success in both the workers compensation claim and the SSD benefits case. If possible, for seamless coordination of claims and the most knowledgeable decision-making, it is best when the same attorney or law firm office handles the worker’s compensation and social security disability cases. Most often the same treating physician or surgeon gives the permanent injury and restrictions opinions relied on in both cases.