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Can I get both SSD and workers' compensation benefits?

Many people who have gone from healthy enough to work to unable to work due to a disability get that way because of a work-related injury. For instance, a job that involves lifting heavy objects eventually can lead to severe back problems. Or a terrible accident can leave a worker with a brain injury that makes earning a living impossible.

Social Security Disability benefits are a vital option for people in this situation, but it may not be the only one. Workers’ compensation may also be available, but pursuing both types of benefits can be risky, due to the rules surrounding SSD.

As the Social Security Administration explains in a pamphlet available on its website, the amount of SSD benefits you receive can change based on if you are also receiving many other forms of public disability benefit. This includes workers’ comp. If you receive both SSD and workers’ compensation, the SSA will reduce your SSD payments if the combined amount of benefits you receive exceeds 80 percent of your “average current earnings” before becoming disabled.

The amount of excess over 80 percent of your prior average earnings is what is taken away. So if you were earning $3,500 a month before your disability, and your combined workers’ comp and SSD benefits total $3,200, SSA will reduce your SSD benefits by $400, or $3,200 minus $2,800 (80 percent of $3,500).

SSA says it uses “different formulas” to determine an SSD recipient’s average current earnings. If you believe SSA made an error or is being unfair, you may need the assistance of an SSD attorney to get your benefits fully restored.

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