Injured workers receiving workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia may qualify for other benefits, including Social Security disability, unemployment compensation, and short term or long term disability. To protect your financial future, it’s important to thoroughly investigate your eligibility for each program.
Social Security Disability Benefits
Workers’ compensation is a state-run program, while Social Security is a federal program. You can collect from both programs if you’re eligible, but it’s important to keep in mind that each program has a slightly different definition of what it means to be disabled. Qualifying as disabled under workers’ compensation doesn’t necessarily mean you’d be eligible for Social Security disability.
If you’re eligible, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits will not affect the amount of your weekly workers’ comp disability check. However, workers’ comp benefits may offset Social Security benefits, and this may affect you if your income is below a certain level.
According to the Social Security Administration, someone who is receiving both workers’ compensation and Social Security disability benefits is subject to a benefit cap. You are able to collect from both programs, as long as the total amount of these benefits doesn’t exceed 80% of your average earnings before you became disabled.
If the total amount from both programs exceeds 80% of your previous earnings, the excess will be deducted from your Social Security benefits. This reduction continues until you reach age 65 or you’re no longer receiving workers’ compensation benefits. When you are no longer receiving workers’ compensation benefits, you can simply call the Social Security Administration office to report the change and your SSDI payment will be adjusted accordingly.
If you aren’t currently receiving SSDI benefits but wish to apply, your workers’ compensation benefits will have no bearing on whether or not your application is accepted.
Unemployment Insurance Benefits
Most injured workers will not be able to collect both workers’ compensation benefits and unemployment benefits. A requirement of receiving unemployment benefits is that you’re ready, willing, and able to work. If you’re disabled from working due to an employment-related injury, this means you wouldn’t qualify.
One case in which workers might be able to collect both types of benefits is if the injured worker is able to do light-duty work, but no such work has been offered by his employer and he is unable to find suitable light duty work on his own. In this circumstance, you could apply for unemployment benefits as a temporary measure. You would need to clearly state on your application that you’re willing to perform light-duty work within the restrictions your care provider has set for you. You can receive unemployment benefits for 14 to 20 weeks, depending upon the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate at the time you file your claim.
If you receive unemployment benefits during a period for which you are seeking workers' compensation income benefits, the employer/insurer can receive a credit for each dollar of unemployment compensation paid against the workers’ comp benefits it is required to pay.
Short-Term or Long-Term Disability Payments
Many Georgia employers offer short-term disability (STD) and long-term disability (LTD) coverage as part of their benefits package. If you sustain a work-related injury that results in a qualifying disability, you may be able to collect benefits from both workers’ compensation and STD or LTD coverage. However, Georgia law allows an employer/insurer to receive a credit for any benefits an injured worker is paid from a STD or LTD policy in direct proportion to the amount of the premium paid by the employer.
Protecting Your Legal Rights
Retaining the services of a workers’ compensation attorney can help you figure out how to maximize your available benefits. Your attorney can advocate for your needs throughout the claim process and answer questions you might have about your eligibility.
The experienced attorneys at Rechtman & Spevak are committed to helping Georgia residents receive the workers’ compensation benefits they need to recover from their injuries. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.