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Options are available to protect workers after on-the-job injury

Many disabilities that Americans suffer results from injuries and illnesses that occur in the workplace. Workers' compensation programs, through the states, offer medical and wage benefits, as well as others in some circumstances, to injured workers. Injured workers, however, who suffer from long-term disability may also be able to receive Social Security disability benefits.

It is important for injured workers to be familiar with the options they have available to them and how the different options interact with one another. Over 90 percent of workers in the U.S. are covered by workers' compensation insurance or some type of insurance coverage carried by employers. Eligibility for workers' compensation benefits begins the first day of work, which is unlike eligibility for Social Security disability benefits, which requires sufficient work history.

In general, workers' compensation benefits cover medical expenses that result because of a workplace injury or illness, but it also provides benefits for lost earnings that result from the injury or illness. Typically, there is a waiting period for lost earnings replacement benefits, and the benefits usually cover two-thirds of the worker's lost earnings. Workers' compensation benefits can be temporary or permanent depending on the circumstances.

Workers suffering long-term disabilities may be able to obtain Social Security disability benefits, which are for injuries or illnesses that result in a severe medical condition that is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. There is a somewhat complex relationship between workers' compensation and Social Security disability benefits. There is an offset in place that limits, to 80 percent of a worker's pre-injury average earnings, the amount of benefits a worker can receive from both workers' compensation and Social Security disability benefits.

Overall, both types of benefits are designed to be available to protect injured workers. Accordingly, workers should understand the best options available for them when they have been harmed by a workplace injury.

Source: U.S. Social Security Administration Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, "Workplace Injuries and the Take-Up of Social Security Disability Benefits," Paul O'Leary, et al., Accessed on Sept. 14, 2015

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