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Disabled from work? You may still get Social Security disability

A disabling work injury may not be your fault, but it can change everything. Instead of leading a self-sufficient life and building wealth, you may be forced to rely on help from others -- both financially and in your everyday life. What can you do?

Assuming your employer had workers’ compensation insurance, you should qualify for help through that program. You may have long-term disability insurance or, in certain cases, you may qualify for disability benefits through a state, tribal or other program. For most people, however, the primary source of benefits will be Social Security disability.

If your work-related injury has rendered you disabled for the long term, may very well qualify for both workers’ comp and Social Security disability. Do you have to choose?

No -- although your benefits could be reduced. And, if you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, you should consider applying right away, since many fully-qualifying initial claims are denied at first. Also, there is both a waiting period and a system backlog that could hold up your benefits.

The fact that you receive workers’ comp or other disability benefits doesn’t affect whether you qualify for SSD, only the amount you may receive in benefits. Here’s basically how it works:

First, the Social Security Administration determines whether your condition meets its definition of disability. If it does, the agency separately figures out the monthly benefits you receive. That benefit calculation takes into account a number of factors, and one of them is whether you’re receiving income from certain other sources.

For workers’ comp and separate disability benefits, the Social Security Administration compares the combined total of those benefits to your average income before your disability. If that total exceeds 80 percent of your previous income, your SSDI or SSI benefits will be reduced. It’s a little more complicated if you received your workers’ comp as a lump-sum payment, but the principle is the same.

A work-related disability can be really tough, financially. Don’t pass up any benefits you may be entitled to without discussing your rights with an attorney.

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