At the Good Law Group we have worked with workers’ compensation attorneys to help their clients obtain the Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits they need. Our firm has over 30 years of experience and represents cases at all levels of the SSD approval process. The below resources help show how worker’s compensation benefits affect your clients SSD payments.
What You Should Know About Spread Language and Workers’ Compensation Settlement Agreements
A lump sum workers’ compensation settlement will reduce dollar for dollar any subsequent SSD benefit payments received by the injured worker.
To minimize or even avoid this offset of SSD benefits, a workers’ compensation settlement agreement should always contain language that spreads out payments over time. Where spread language in workers’ compensation settlement agreements is absent, the lump sum payment will reduce a claimant’s SSD payment dollar for dollar.
For example, an injured construction worker has multiple back surgeries, and is eventually able to settle his case for $200,000.00. The settlement agreement he has executed doesn’t include spread language. The worker goes back to work at a light or sedentary job, but two years later the worker has a stroke that leaves him totally disabled.
In this circumstance, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will set off (withhold) the first $200,000.00 from the workers’ compensation case from the petitioner’s SSD benefits, even though the stroke is not related to the workers’ compensation injury and surgeries. If the worker is awarded SSD Benefits, and his benefit amount is $1,400/month, then in this scenario the first 143 months of SSD benefits would equal zero dollars a month. Therefore, include the spread language even if you expect the petitioner to return to work.
Recommended Resources for Workman’s Comp and SSD Benefits
Below please find a list of recommended resources for clients who are also applying for SSD Benefits.
Sample Spread Language This is sample language to use in your client’s workers’ compensation settlement agreement:
After payment of attorney’s fees and costs, the petitioner will receive a net amount of $__________. This is for a permanent impairment that will affect the claimant for the rest of his/ her life. The mortality table indicates that a petitioner at age _______ has a life expectancy of _______ or _________ months. The amortized monthly net benefit is _________ per month. This represents future income replacement. This paragraph is intended for federal Social Security purposes only.
Social Security Disability Set-Off Calculation There are two calculations that are involved when a petitioner has a workers’ compensation case and a SSD case. The first one is while they are receiving Temporary Total Disability (TTD), and the second one is after they receive a lump sum settlement.
The TTD Set-Off Calculation While a petitioner is receiving TTD, the SSA will calculate 85% of your Average Current Earnings (“ACE”) and subtract the TTD amount then pay the difference.
- 85% of the ACE is $3,000.00 per month
- The TTD payment is $400.00 a week
- The SSA calculates 4.3333 weeks in a month
- The total TTD for a month is $1,733.32
The SSA will pay the petitioner $1,266.68 of their SSD benefit. This benefit was calculated by starting with the $3,000.00 ACE per month and subtracting it from the $1,733.32 total TTD for a month. This example also assumes that the petitioner is entitled to at least $1,266.68 of SSD benefits a month.
The Lump Sum Set-Off Calculation This is the simpler of the two calculations. The SSA deducts the monthly spread amount from the monthly SSD benefit.
- The worker’s compensation settlement agreement spread amount states that the set-off is $600.00 per month
- The Petitioner is supposed to get $2,000.00 a month in SSD benefits
The SSA will pay the Petitioner $1,400.00 per month in SSD benefits. This benefit was calculated by deducting the $600.00 set-off per month from the $2,000.00 SSD benefits per month.
Life expectancy Calculator
The calculation of the spread amount is based on SSA’s expectancy table. First, look up the petitioner’s life expectancy using the life expectancy calculator below. This will calculate the number of years the petitioner is expected to live. Multiply the number of years the petitioner is expected to live by 12 to get the total months of life expectancy. Then divide the total number of months by the lump sum settlement amount.
- SSD benefit amount $2,000.00 a month
- The petitioner is 47 years and 11 months year old
- The life expectancy in year is 33.8 years
- The expected life in months is 405.6 (33.8x 12)
- The workers’ compensation case settles for $200,000.00
- The spread amount it $493.10 ($200,000.00/405.6)
- Total SSD benefit after spread $1,506.90
In the above example, if the settlement agreement includes the spread language and the petitioner eventually receives social security disability, the monthly SSD benefit amount will be $1,506.90. If the settlement agreement does not include spread language, even if the workers’ compensation injury is unrelated to the disabling condition that triggered the SSD claim, the SSA will deduct the entire settlement from the SSD benefits.
Strategies for Maximizing Social Security Disability Benefits
The petitioner should evaluate when to accept their Social Security Retirement (“SSR”) benefits as there are some situations in which the petitioner will receive more money from SSR benefits than from SSD benefits. The SSA allows petitioners to deduct from their lump-sum settlements expenses which include documented attorney fees, medical bills, and vocational rehabilitation. There are other related expenses that are eligible for inclusion, for example, expenses like building a ramp for a wheelchair or having a shower or bathtub altered to accommodate a disability. Another way to eliminate the entire set-off is a third-party claim that pays off the workers’ compensation lien. This involves some work but the Petitioner recaptures all the Social Security benefits that were withheld due to the workers’ compensation case.
The Good Law Group can help your clients structure their SSD claims and provide experienced legal guidance in the application process for benefits. If you have a client who needs assistance to navigate their SSD claim while they also have a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, we can help. Call #800-419-7606 or complete our online form for a complimentary case evaluation.
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