In Virginia, you can get workers compensation if you are unable to do your job due to an injury or disease. You also may be able to get Social Security Disability if you are disabled. But Social Security Disability benefits can be reduced if you are receiving Virginia workers compensation payments. There are some ways around this “bad impact” on a disabled person’s benefits.
THE HISTORY OF THE OFFSET
Congress decided many years ago that if a worker received both workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability at the same time this would be a “double payment” of benefits. Workers compensation in Virginia pays an injured worker two-thirds (2/3) of his average weekly salary when he is out due to an injury or disease. Social Security on the other hand pays the disabled worker a benefit based on his/her lifetime earnings. Congress decided if the combination of the two benefits exceeded 80% of what was considered to be the worker’s salary then the Social Security benefit should be reduced by each dollar that its payment exceeds 80% of the injured worker’s salary.
THERE IS NO OFFSET FOR RETIREMENT BENEFITS
The reduction talked about above does not apply to early retirement benefits. Thus, if the injured worker is claiming Social Security retirement benefits, there would be no offset. Thus, if one is 62 or older in some circumstances it may be wiser to claim the retirement benefits so that one avoids the offset. This is a strategic decision that should be discussed with an attorney who is a specialist in the field.
AVOIDING THE OFFSET BY WORKING OUT A LUMP SUM SETTLEMENT
An experienced attorney can avoid the offset in another way. That is done by settling the disabled worker’s workers compensation case. But in the settlement the money is pro-rated over the person’s life expectancy. For example, if the person is 40 years old, the person may have a life expectancy of 40 more years or 2,080 weeks. Then, one can take the settlement of $100,000 (for example) and divide that by the 2,080 weeks. This would yield a weekly amount of only $48.07. This amount of only $48.07 per week would be too small to reduce the federal disability benefit.
THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR NOT USING AN EXPERIENCED LAWYER
When a settlement is submitted to the Commission in Virginia the Commission will try to make sure it is in the claimant’s best interest. But an attorney who is a specialist in this field should be used.