Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation and Social Security: Can I Receive Both?

A Quatrini Rafferty Newsletter article by A. Tereasa Rerko, Esq.

If you're receiving workers' compensation benefits, it may seem that filing for Social Security disability benefits is unnecessary. Nothing could be further from the truth. For someone who may not work for at least a year or more, there are significant reasons to consider filing for Social Security disability benefits, even before workers' compensation benefits end.

Social Security disability benefits are insurance benefits, so eligibility for receiving them has a time limit. Generally speaking, you must prove you are disabled within five years of ending your employment. For example, someone who is injured in 2001, and stops working for wages that year, must usually establish disability by some time in 2006. Waiting until the workers' compensation claim is resolved in 2008 will make it more difficult to obtain the medical evidence and testimony necessary to establish disability before 2006. Therefore, if you expect to be out of work for more than a year due to your disability, consider filing for Social Security disability benefits as soon as you stop working.

Another reason to apply for Social Security disability benefits at that time is to protect your Social Security retirement benefits. Payroll taxes support the payment of Social Security disability benefits, and payment of these taxes ends when you stop working. This means that if you leave the workforce before age 62, your retirement account will show a number of years of "zero" income. However, when you are declared disabled by the Social Security Administration, your retirement account is not affected by those years of zero income because your earnings record is "frozen" by your receipt of Social Security disability benefits.

Additionally, if you are awarded Social Security disability benefits, you become entitled to Medicare two years after you begin receiving those benefits. Even while receiving workers' compensation payments, Medicare eligibility can provide access to valuable medical insurance and prescription benefits for non-work-related conditions.

Finally, an award of Social Security disability benefits can provide you with income protection if your workers' compensation benefits are terminated. Also, an award of Social Security disability benefits gives you the opportunity to resolve your workers' compensation claim for a lump sum, knowing that you have another source of income.

Contrary to what you may have been told, it is a good idea to explore the possibility of filing for Social Security disability benefits as soon as you leave the job market due to illness or injury. Contact us at Quatrini Rafferty to discuss your specific workers' compensation or social security disability situation.

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