Monday, February 8, 2016

Social Security Retirees and the Worker's Comp Offset

Social Security Disability Claimants also qualify for worker's compensations benefits.  When a worker is injured on the job, he or she receives periodic checks or a lump sum amount as compensation for his or her injuries.  However, by law the total amount received in SSDI benefits is offset by the amount received in worker's comp payments.   Under the law, the combined amount of worker's comp and Social Security Disability benefits cannot exceed 80% of the worker's earnings prior to his or her disability.  This reduction in benefits is commonly referred to by Social Security Disability Lawyers as the "Worker's Comp Offset" ("Offset").  
Up to now, the the Worker's Comp Offset applied only to disability benefits, not to retirement benefits.  Historically the offset ended at age 65 when the worker reached retirement age. However, as a result of a new law passed by Congress in order to keep pace with the new retirement age, Congress recently increased the age at which the offset will end. PL 113-295, Section 201 (December 19, 2014) amended 42 USC 424a to provide that, effective December 19, 2015, SSDI benefits will be offset until the worker reaches full retirement age. This provision applies to any individual whose DI benefit is currently offset for WC/PDB and who attains age 65 on December 19, 2015, or later.
This change is yet another reason why worker's comp claimants need to discuss their case with a lawyer who is well aware of Social Security laws and its complex regulations.  Unfortunately, I have met many worker's comp claimant's who hire lawyers that do not understand the how the offset works.  There are several ways in which a lawyer who knows Social Security laws can help you reduce any potential worker's comp offset.  For this reason, if you are currently considering settling your worker's comp case, you should insist that your lawyer include language in the settlement agreement that reduces your offset in the future.  Failure to include this language in your settlement agreement can be a fatal mistake that cannot be corrected later on with an amendment.