Social Security disability benefits are subject to an offset, or reduction, when paid to a claimant who is also receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Technically, the reduction applies if the total of the two benefits exceeds 80 percent of the worker’s “average current earnings” or ACE. The worker’s ACE is calculated as the largest of three averages:
- average monthly wage used for purposes of computing Social Security benefits;
- 1/60 of the total wages for five consecutive calendar years for which such wages were the highest; or
- 1/12 of the total wages for the calendar year in which the worker had the highest such wages during the period consisting of the calendar year in which he or she became disabled and the five consecutive calendar years preceding that year. Clearly this is not a simple calculation that most workers can undertake.
In most instances, when a worker is receiving temporary or permanent total disability payments, they will not be entitled to receive any disability pay from the Social Security Administration. When a worker is receiving permanent partial disability payments, they likely will be entitled to receive at least a portion of their SSA disability pay. In many cases, settling a workers’ compensation case can increase the monthly SSA disability benefit.
At any rate, the most important thing a worker who is entitled to receive both workers’ compensation and SSA disability benefits can do is report the amount of his workers’ compensation benefits to the Social Security Administration, in writing if possible. Failure to do so can result in an overpayment that may not be uncovered until years later and may be thousands of dollars. However, the reporting of these benefits doesn’t ensure the SSA will make the proper adjustment to your SSA monthly benefit. As such, it’s important to follow up with the SSA once you have reported your benefit amount to ensure they adjust your SSA benefit to account for this. This will help ensure an overpayment is not found years later.