Worker's Compensation and Decreasing Social Security Benefits
As attorneys at a law firm, we work with a lot of disabled individuals and the word stress often comes to mind as we consider our client's needs. Disabilities are stressful. Tasks and activities that were once simple, like walking to get the mail or shopping for groceries, become a process often requiring outside assistance. Most disabilities require some type of ongoing care, which costs money, and simultaneously impairs the disabled individual’s ability to engage in meaningful employment.
We’ve said this time and again: workers’ compensation payments and disability payments are, in many cases, life-sustaining, and we work to help ensure that our clients receive the full payments that they are due. Those injured on the job may qualify for both Social Security disability (SSD) and workers’ compensation payments, but should be aware that their SSD payments will likely be reduced to “offset” the workers’ compensation payments they receive.
General SSD Offset
If an individual is receiving workers’ compensation, the Social Security Administration reduces the individual’s SSD compensation so that the sum of the two payments does not exceed a set maximum limit. Under Social Security rules, the maximum combined benefit an individual can receive is 80 percent of their average income. There are a few ways to calculate this average income, which depend on the type of employment the disabled applicant was previously engaged in. The total combined workers’ compensation and Social Security disability payments will never be less than the applicant would have received under Social Security alone.
Colorado’s “Reverse Offset”
Colorado is a little different: it is one of about 15 states that has a “reverse offset.” This means that the Colorado workers’ compensation benefit you receive may be offset based on the amount of Social Security disability payments you receive. As its name suggests, it largely operates in the opposite way of the general offset (i.e. workers’ compensation payments are reduced, SSD payments are not) but yielding similar results. Fortunately, if a workers’ compensation benefit is offset, the Social Security payment won’t be. In other words, your workers’ compensation payment OR your Social Security payment may be reduced, not both.
Yes, It’s Legal
Attorneys are always seeking ways to get around unfavorable laws and rules. The offset rules are not an exception, and were challenged in a 1971 U.S. Supreme Court case, Richardson v Belcher, 404 US 78. A Social Security applicant had his payment reduced by approximately $100 per month under the “offset” rule. The applicant challenged the offset arguing that it violated the due process clause of the 5th Amendment. Based in part on prior precedent and in part on new analysis, the court disagreed, finding that the offset was constitutional.
Let Us Advocate for You
If you’re suffering from a disability that resulted from an on the job injury, the attorneys at Whitcomb, Selinsky PC and our sister firm, the Rocky Mountain Disability Law Group, can help you with workers’ compensation claim and your Social Security disability claim to ensure you receive the benefits you are entitled to. Please call us at (303) 534-1958 or complete a contact form.