In Louisiana, two common forms of financial assistance are available to injured workers: workers' compensation and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). If you've suffered a serious work-related injury and now have a permanent disability, you might qualify for both programs. However, the best way to maximize your benefits is to consult experienced attorney Phillip Hendry for guidance.
Louisiana Workers' Compensation Benefits
Workers' compensation is a system of benefits designed to help injured workers who are unable to work due to their injuries. The Louisiana Workforce Commission within the Department of Labor administers the program.
In order to be eligible for workers' compensation in Louisiana, you must have suffered an injury or illness related to your job. You must also provide documentation that the injury occurred at work or resulted from a work activity.
Under Louisiana workers' compensation law, injured workers are entitled to medical expenses related to their injury and wage replacement benefits while they are unable to work. Depending on the severity of the injury, these benefits can last for months or even years. Sometimes, an injured employee may also be eligible for vocational rehabilitation services to help them transition back to paid employment.
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federally funded program that provides benefits to insured individuals who have become disabled and are unable to work due to their impairment. It is funded through payroll taxes added to the Social Security trust fund and overseen by the Social Security Administration.
SSDI benefits are available to workers who have paid Social Security taxes for a certain amount of time, worked long enough to earn the necessary work credits, and have a qualifying medical condition. SSDI benefits are based on your past income and can also include medical benefits.
Understanding the Differences in Disability Benefits
There are two key differences between SSDI and Louisiana workers' compensation benefits: the types of injuries covered and the types of payment available.
Types of Covered Injuries
Louisiana workers' compensation typically covers employees with injuries or illnesses that occur at work, regardless of fault. This means that even if an employee was responsible for their own injury, they may still be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. An employee is not entitled to lost wage benefits until he or she has been off of work at least fourteen days related to the accident and injury, per doctor's orders. However, there is no such delay for entitlement to medical treatment.
On the other hand, SSDI benefits are only available to workers who can provide medical evidence of a qualifying disability that prevents them from working for at least one year. The medical condition must meet the Social Security Administration's strict definition of disability, which includes a determination that the worker is unable to perform their prior work or any other type of substantial gainful activity. However, the disabling condition does not need to have occurred at work. People can receive SSDI benefits for conditions caused by factors unrelated to their employment, such as cancer, vision problems, or kidney disease.
Types of Payment Available
Another difference between workers' compensation and SSDI is the types of payment available. Workers' compensation benefits are generally limited to medical treatment related to the specific injury, partial payment for lost wages, and limited-time disability benefits. In contrast, SSDI benefits for disabled adults can include ongoing monthly disability payments, medical care for all health conditions after Medicare eligibility begins, and other benefits such as vocational rehabilitation services.
Payments under SSDI can be higher than payments made through workers’ compensation, but this depends on your past wages. The maximum workers’ comp weekly benefit for workers injured on or after September 1, 2022, is $771. However, the rate will vary and could be lower than the maximum based on the actual earnings of the employee. The maximum payment for SSDI in 2023 is $3,627 a month, with average benefits ranging from $800 to $1,800 per month.
Payment Offset for Those Who Receive Benefits From Both Programs
When a person is receiving Louisiana Workers' Compensation benefits, their SSDI benefits may be reduced so that the combined benefits don't exceed 80% of their "average current wage as determined by the Social Security Administration. This is referred to as a payment offset.
However, employers may request that the Louisiana Workers' Compensation Court reverse the earnings offset if the Court finds that a worker is permanently and totally disabled.
Why You Need a Louisiana Workers' Compensation Lawyer Who Can Also Handle Your Social Security Disability Benefits Claim
You are not required to have a lawyer to apply for Louisiana workers' compensation benefits or Social Security disability benefits. However, if you have been hurt on the job and your injuries will prevent you from returning to the workforce, a lawyer experienced in dealing with both the Social Security Administration and the Louisiana Department of Labor can be beneficial.
A workers' compensation lawyer who also handles SSDI claims can help streamline the application process and reduce the likelihood of delays or denials. Disputed claims are common in both programs, and having a lawyer who can advocate for your rights can be invaluable. Your attorney can also advise you on what to consider before accepting a workers' comp settlement offer.
Do You Need a Louisiana Workers' Compensation Attorney Who Can Also Assist With Your Social Security Disability Claim?
When a work injury has left you disabled, Phillip M. Hendry Law is here to help. We fight for rightful workers' compensation for injured workers throughout North and Central Louisiana and can assist with your application for Social Security disability benefits if needed. Complete our online contact form or call (318) 553-5900 to schedule a consultation. For your convenience, we offer video conferencing options that let you seek assistance from the comfort of your own home.