Social Security Disability and Workers’ Compensation

The Virginia Workers’ Compensation statute provides partial wage benefits to workers who are injured by accident at work.  If an employee is unable to return to their job or an offered light duty assignment due to a workplace accident, the insurer pays wage benefits  at two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage for a maximum of 500 weeks.

Using a somewhat different analysis, Social Security Disability considers multiple factors in determining disability status, including medical condition, age, education and work history. To qualify for disability benefits, you must have “a physical or mental impairment that is expected to keep you from doing any substantial work (less than $1,090 per month) for at least a year.”   Depending on the multiple factors listed above, it is possible that an employee who is unable to return to his or her regular job for workers’ compensation purposes may nonetheless be denied Social Security Disability due to an ability to perform other work in the general economy, regardless of whether you actually are hired for such a job.

If an employee on workers’ compensation also meets the Social Security Administration’s disability definition, the Social Security Administration still will apply workers’ compensation benefits as an offset to Social Security Disability Benefits, meaning not every disabled worker can recover full benefits under both statutes.  The basic rule is that the combined amount of workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability benefits may not exceed 80% of an employee’s peak earnings year in a five year period prior to the onset of disability.  For example, a worker who earned $40,000 per year may not receive more than $32,000 (or $2,667 per month) in combined workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability Benefits.  If that worker receives $2,215 per month in workers’ compensation benefits, Social Security Disability will pay only $452 in additional benefits due to the 80% offset rule.

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