One question we are frequently asked is whether other benefits affect Social Security Disability benefits, and visa versa. To assist you in understanding the relationship of SSD benefits with other benefits, we are providing you with some general information.
To discuss your particular situation, we recommend scheduling a free consultation by calling us at 412-794-8003 (locally in the Pittsburgh area) or toll free at 1-866-438-8773 (outside the Pittsburgh calling area).
Can I Collect Social Security Disability in Addition to Other Benefits?
It is possible to make general statements about what type of benefits may be collected along with Social Security Disability benefits, but this can be a complicated question, so it is always best to discuss your individual situation with your Social Security Disability attorney. What follows is a broad outline of the rules affecting collection of other types of benefits along with SSD.
First, with respect to SSI benefits, these benefits are awarded according to a “needs test;” in other words, in addition to being found disabled, a person awarded SSI has also been found to have very little if any other sources of income. Accordingly, the general rule for collecting SSI and other types of benefits is that any other income you receive will probably reduce, at least to some extent, the amount you will be entitled to under the SSI program.
With respect to SSD benefits the rules about what other types of benefits can be collected vary depending on the type of benefits:
Workers’ Compensation benefits: Workers’ Compensation benefits are “primary,” which means essentially that they are paid first, and SSD benefits are only paid only after computing what is called the “offset.” Essentially, the rule is that a person can only collect Workers’ Compensation and Social Security benefits up to an amount equal to 80% of the amount they were making when they were last able to work. So, for instance, if someone made $24,000 per year when they were working, 80% of that is $1600 per month. If Workers’ Compensation pays them $1200 per month, then they can receive up to $400 per month in Social Security Disability benefits (so that the total equals the $1600 “cap”). This calculation is only made once, when the claimant first receives a Social Security check, so any “cost-of-living” increases awarded by Social Security are paid to the claimant even though this technically means that they are receiving more than the 80% cap. To continue the above example, if the first year after the claimant begins receiving Social Security benefits a cost-of-living increase of $25 is awarded, then that claimant would begin receiving a Social Security Disability check in the amount of $425 in addition to Workers’ Compensation.
Veterans benefits: The rule here depends on the type of veterans benefits that are being received. If the veteran is receiving “service connected disability” they may receive 100% of both their Veterans pension and Social Security Disability. If the veteran is being paid “nonservice connected disability,” then there is likely to be a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the amount of those benefits by the amount being received from Social Security.
Social Security retirement benefits: If a claimant has not yet reached full retirement age, then he or she has elected to receive a reduced amount from Social Security retirement (usually at age 62). Being awarded Social Security Disability would have the effect of paying that claimant the difference between an early retirement amount and the full retirement amount until he or she reaches the age of full retirement. If a claimant is already receiving a full retirement benefit check, then there is no advantage to being awarded disability, since the amount involved is the same and would not result in an increase in the monthly benefits.
Long-term disability insurance: Many people are receiving a disability check from their employer, which is usually paid through an insurance company. Most disability insurance policies purchased by employers require the disability recipient to apply for Social Security Disability benefits. This is because most disability insurance policies purchased by employers have a provision that reduces the amount the insurance company must pay if the claimant is successful in his or her Social Security Disability claim. For instance, if your disability insurance policy is paying $1000 per month and you are awarded $800 per month in Social Security Disability benefits, the insurance company would then be required to only pay you $200 per month, so that you are still receiving the $1000 promised in your policy.
Unemployment benefits: Receipt of Unemployment Compensation benefits can present an obstacle to successfully presenting a Social Security Disability case, because of the seemingly inconsistent statements a claimant for these different types of benefits must make in order to qualify. In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, a claimant is saying that he or she is “unable to work,” but in an Unemployment Compensation claim the claimant is stating that he or she is “ready, willing, and able to work,” but cannot find a job. While the situation may appear “cut and dried,” there are ways of convincing the Social Security Judge that an award of benefits is appropriate, even despite the receipt of Unemployment Compensation benefits. This is the type of situation where you’ll benefit from being represented by an experienced Social Security Disability attorney (contact us).
Personal injury claims: Receipt of a settlement or verdict as a result of a personal injury lawsuit does not reduce your Social Security Disability benefit. In fact, depending on the circumstances of your personal injury case, being found disabled by Social Security may have the effect of increasing the amount you can settle for or obtaining a verdict after a jury trial.
The above information is very general, so please do not make judgments about whether you should apply for Social Security Disability or not based upon these very short paragraphs. An experienced Social Security Disability attorney will be able to apply what are fairly complex rules to your specific situation and advise you as to the best course of action.
However, even if your receipt of any of the above benefits means that you will not receive any monthly checks from Social Security, there are usually still very good reasons to apply for Social Security Disability benefits.
Eligibility for Social Security Disability qualifies you for Medicare benefits. While you may have health insurance, or in the case of Workers’ Compensation be covered for your work-related injury, qualifying for disability benefits would at least give you the option of receiving Medicare in the future if your personal health insurance lapses or if you develop medical problems not related to your work injury. Moreover, some people who already have health insurance conclude that Medicare is simply a better deal for them.
The “disability freeze”
Being found eligible for Social Security Disability preserves your retirement account at its current level. Especially if you are younger (10 or more years away from retirement age), you will not be paying into Social Security for a long time if you are unable to work because of disability. These many years of not contributing to your Social Security account will significantly reduce the amount of benefits you will be eligible for at retirement. Being found disabled “locks in” your current retirement benefit, even if you are disabled for many years.
While this may not seem like a compelling reason to apply for disability, please keep in mind that, if you continue to be disabled, you will not be earning an income and saving in addition to paying into Social Security. This means that you will in all likelihood be relying heavily, if not exclusively, on your Social Security retirement benefits to take care of you when you are older, so in our opinion it makes sense to apply for disability benefits even if the monthly amount that will be paid does not seem significant.
Termination of other benefits
Everyone knows someone, or has heard stories about someone, whose benefits or pension was taken away unexpectedly. For instance, it is common knowledge that Workers’ Compensation and insurance company attorneys often fight, or seek to reduce, their obligation to pay benefits to the disabled.
Being found eligible for Social Security Disability provides a safety net. Even if you would currently receive only a small amount from Social Security, that amount could increase if another benefit (Workers’ Compensation, for instance) was reduced or terminated).
If you have questions about the information provided above or would like to discuss your specific circumstances with an experienced Social Security Disability benefits attorney, please schedule a free confidential consultation by calling us at 412-794-8003 (locally in the Pittsburgh area) or toll free at 1-866-438-8773 (outside the Pittsburgh calling area). If you prefer, you can fill out our intake form, and an experienced lawyer will contact you to schedule an appointment.
Need an SSD Attorney? We’re Here to Help
Navigate the complex world of Social Security Disability with Osterhout Berger. Our experienced attorneys are ready to assist you. For a complimentary, confidential consultation, call 412-794-8003 or 866-438-8773 , or use our contact form.