What’s the Difference Between Workers’ Compensation and Disability?

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Getting injured on the job can uproot your life. You may be in pain, have medical bills piling up, and become stressed over not knowing when you will be healthy enough to return to work. These uncertainties and the financial burdens they impose can take their toll on you and your family.

However, in Georgia, you do have a few options that can help lessen the blow of a work-related accident.

Typical benefits that you may be entitled to receive under Georgia law include:

  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Social Security
  • Private Disability

Here’s what you need to know about each of these potential options.

Workers’ Comp Overview

The most common type of benefit for work-related injuries is workers’ compensation. Workers’ comp is a form of insurance through your employer. In Georgia, companies that have more than three employees are required to carry a workers’ comp policy.

Workers’ comp provides medical benefits, rehabilitation services, and supplemental income if you are hurt on the job. The benefits a worker is entitled to receive can be temporary or permanent depending on the type and severity of an injury. Further, these benefits can be partial or total depending on whether the injury prevents a worker from working, or only allows him to work in a diminished capacity. The amount of payments and the process for applying is governed by state law.

It is not necessary that your injury prevents you from working for an extended period of time. In Georgia, you can receive benefits as long as you are out of work for more than 21 calendar days. Note that there is a 7-day waiting period to apply for benefits. This means that once you apply you should get your check for the first week about 3 weeks later.

Remember that your employer must have an existing workers’ comp policy in place for you to receive benefits. If the organization where you work has less than three employees or your employer fails to obtain or maintain coverage, you will not have this option available to you.

Private Disability Benefits

Workers typically have the option to purchase directly insurance policies that cover on-the-job injuries. These can be obtained independently or as part of a benefits package offered by an employer. The types of injuries covered and the extent of the benefits can vary significantly from policy to policy. Unlike workers’ comp, the amounts are not governed by state law and your exact coverage and limits will be set by your insurer.

Overview of Social Security Benefits

Social Security may be another option for you following a workplace injury. These benefits are established by federal law and are not limited strictly to injuries that occur at work. There are two types of Social Security benefits to consider:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): This program provides benefits to disabled or blind persons. Payments are made based on a worker’s contributions to the Social Security Trust Fund. The amounts you are entitled to receive as part of this program are based on your lifetime average earnings covered by Social Security.
  • Social Security Supplemental Income (SSI): This program offers cash assistance to blind and disabled persons with limited resources. To qualify, you must meet the federal criteria for disabilities. You must also demonstrate that you have limited income. As of 2019, the maximum amount you are entitled to receive is $771 per month as set by the Federal Benefit Rate. Note that this number is subject to change from year to year.

Both SSDI and SSI provide Medicare or Medicaid health insurance coverage to those that qualify. Note that in order to meet the criteria for either program you must demonstrate that you have a long-term disabling condition. The condition must last for at least 12 months, or be expected to end in death. Further, the disability must prevent you from doing substantial work.

Qualifying for Both Workers’ Compensation and Disability

Now, in some cases, you can meet the criteria for both workers’ comp and SSDI/SSI. This means that it is possible to receive benefits from both of these programs simultaneously.

However, it is important to note that receiving workers’ comp benefits can reduce the amount you are allowed to collect under SSDI/SSI. Further, if you start receiving both workers’ comp and Social Security, the total amount you are entitled to cannot exceed 80% of your earnings before you became disabled.

Note that private disability benefits can also reduce the amount you can receive under SSDI/SSI. Likewise, the total amount you can collect is capped at 80% of your prior earnings.