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Disability Benefit Programs: SSD vs. Workers' Comp

When you have been injured or developed a medical condition that prevents you from working and providing for your family and yourself, you need help. Disability programs exist to help individuals who are in need, but they have requirements that must be met.

Florida’s workers’ compensation system and Social Security Disability are the key disability benefit programs available to individuals in the United States.

Those two benefit programs can be used in combination with each other or completely separately. It is important to know how these two programs are similar, how they are different, and whether or not they can be used together.

The Differences Between Workers’ Comp and Social Security Disability

The key difference between Workers’ Compensation and Social Security Disability is that Florida Workers’ Compensation is state law, while Social Security disability is federal law.

Florida Workers’ Compensation is for people who have been injured on the job in the state of Florida.

Social Security Disability is for people that have suffered injuries or developed medical conditions that prohibit them from performing what Social Security refers to as substantial gainful activity, which basically means full-time work for at least a 12-month period.

Both are permanent disability programs, but they do not both cover short-term.

Workers’ Compensation does have a short-term disability program that covers anywhere from two up to five years of lost wages, and then there becomes a permanent component if you can’t go back to work at all.

Social Security Disability (SSD) has nothing for short-term. If you can’t work for a period of up to one year, if you’re off work for a serious car accident or you have a serious fracture, you break your leg really bad and you can’t work for six months, there’s nothing from the Social Security Administration they can do to help you. You have to be off work for at least one full year, 12 full calendar months, for the Social Security disability program to kick in.

Those are the big differences – workers’ comp being state law, SSD being federal law, workers’ comp having a short-term component, and SSD having no short-term component for less than a year.

How do you get both workers' compensation and Social Security disability?

Well, the first way you can get both is if you can automatically be accepted based on the severity of your condition.

Workers’ Compensation has what is called catastrophic injuries. They have a list of catastrophic injuries that if you have, you qualify.

For example: paralysis: amputation of an arm, hand, or foot; severe brain or closed head injury; second or third-degree burns over 25% or more of your body; or total industrial blindness.

Again, these are just some examples. You can get into debating whether or not you meet the specific criteria for one of those; however, because of their list of those catastrophic injuries, if you have one of those, they automatically accept you.

They don’t get into whether or not you can do what you used to do or if there are other jobs you can do. They just say, “Look, if your accident has blinded you, if your accident has amputated your arm, it doesn’t matter if you can still do your old job with one arm, you’re disabled.”

SSD is Different.

Social Security has what is called the listing of impairments, and it is very similar to the workers’ compensations’ list of catastrophic injuries but it has well over 100 very specific medical conditions that qualify.

You can look up the completed list online by searching for the Social Security Listing of Impairments. The listing is categorized into 14 sections based on the type of condition. Here are some examples; for more specifics, please visit their website.

  • Impairments of the muscular skeletal system, ie. a bad back or herniated disk
  • Impairments of special senses and speech, ie. if you have lost vision or speech abilities
  • Respiratory disorders, ie. asthma, cystic fibrosis
  • Impairments of the cardiovascular system, ie. chronic heart failure
  • Digestive system disorders, ie. chronic liver disease, IBD, SBS
  • Genitourinary Disorders, ie. chronic kidney disease
  • Hematological Disorders, ie. sickle cell disease, thalassemia
  • Skin Disorders
  • Endocrine Disorders
  • Congenital Disorders That Affect Multiple Body Systems
  • Neurological
  • Mental Disorders
  • Cancer
  • Immune System Disorders

For each category, there are several underneath it where they list specific medical conditions that you can have. And if you have one of those medical conditions, Social Security will automatically pick you up.

Vocationally Disabled – Workers’ Comp

If you don’t, and both work comp and Social Security, if you don’t have one of their specific severe conditions, you can still move onto the second part, which is what’s called vocationally disabled.

For workers’ compensation, their requirement is that you must not be able to engage in at least sedentary employment within a 50-mile radius of the employee’s residence due to his or her physical limitation.

Right there, Florida Work Comp says two things:

  1. you have to be reduced to at least sedentary work
  2. you have to be able to find a sedentary job within 50 miles of your house.

So, if you live far outside of Pensacola, FL or other suburban areas, you may be more than 50 miles away from any cluster of jobs. You would have a much higher chance of getting workers’ compensation permanent total disability, because there’s no jobs within 50 miles of your house.

And the other thing they’re looking for is what I have here is called “real” jobs. There actually has to be someone hiring. If no one’s hiring, and you have sedentary work restrictions, and there’s no jobs available within 50 miles of your house; then you’re permanently disabled.

And that’s one of the ways you can prove it is by doing a work search. If you go through and you’ve been looking for work for six months and you can’t find anything because nobody can hire you because you’ve been told by your doctor you can’t lift more than 10 or 15 pounds, then you’ve got a real good permanent disability claim.

Vocationally Disabled – Social Security Disability

In Social Security, what they’re looking at is national jobs. And they don’t have a specific area that they’re looking at. So if you look in Pensacola, they can say, “We understand that no one’s hiring in Pensacola, but we’re looking at potential jobs.”

All that matters for Social Security is that a job has to exist anywhere in the country that you could still do with your limitations.

For example, they could say, and this is one they use all the time, there are surveillance system monitor jobs. And you say, “Well, I live in Chumuckla and there are no surveillance system monitor jobs in Chumuckla, Florida.” Well, there are in Arkansas or there are in Washington State, and there’s plenty of them.

You’re not disabled because you could still do that surveillance system monitor job where you’re just watching a screen and picking up the phone and calling the police. You’ve got two bad feet or you broke a leg real bad so you can’t be on your feet all day, but you can still watch a screen. And the Social Security Administration will tell you, “Look, there’s still a job that exists somewhere in the country that you can do with your injury.”

It’s a little bit of a trade-off. Work Comp has a more practical approach. Social Security is a more theoretical. And they knock a lot of people out, Social Security does, by saying that there’s jobs somewhere that you can still do.

Can you file for both SSD and workers’ compensation?

The answer is absolutely yes.They are not mutually exclusive which means that you can have both.

Workers’ Compensation does get an offset for any payments that you receive for Social Security Disability. If Workers’ Compensation does not take the offset, and you apply for Social Security Disability after you have settled your Workers’ Compensation claim, Social Security Disability will take the offset.

One of the two is going to try to take an offset against the other, but you can absolutely file for Social Security Disability, permanent disability, after you’ve gotten Workers’ Compensation disability.

And what you should know is just because you were unsuccessful with one, because they have different standards, it does not mean you will be unsuccessful with the other.

In the same logic, if you were successful with one, it does not mean you will be successful in the other.

Workers’ Compensation could say there’s no surveillance system monitors within 50 miles of Chumuckla, and then the Social Security judge says, “Yeah, but there’s thousands of surveillance system monitors nationwide. Just because there’s not one within 50 miles of where you live doesn’t mean I’m giving you disability.”

And so you could have the exact same set of facts, the exact same restrictions, and be denied Social Security Disability and accepted for Workers’ Compensation permanent disability.

That is why you should consider talking with a disability lawyer at Michles & Booth. It does not cost you anything to talk to us – it’s a free, no obligation consultation.

You can give us a call at (800) 848-6168 and ask to speak to a social security attorney or workers’ compensation attorney. You can even ask for me directly – Antonio Bruni. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call if you have any questions; we are here to help you.

View related video here: https://youtu.be/F56TVRYUDZQ

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