My disability is work-related. Can I still get SSDI benefits?

Yes. If a work-related illness or injury causes you to become permanently disabled as defined by the Social Security Administration, you can qualify for Social Security disability benefits. This is true even if you also qualify for permanent total disability benefits through the Maryland workers' compensation system.

That doesn't mean you'll end up with double the benefits, though. Social Security disability has rules in place to avoid duplicating benefits you receive from certain other sources. Don't assume, however, that you shouldn't apply for both programs -- it's perfectly legal and expected that you will.

How are Social Security disability benefits affected by workers' comp?

Some states will cut your permanent total disability benefits if you're also receiving Social Security disability. At the same time, the SSA will limit your benefits if you're receiving workers' comp or certain other benefits. It can get pretty complex, but what happens in Maryland is pretty straightforward: your permanent total disability payments will be cut only "to the extent necessary to avoid a diminution of the federal benefits."

The Social Security Act requires the SSA to take certain public disability payments into account when determining your award. Veterans disability payments don't count, and neither do state or local government disability benefits if you paid Social Security (FICA) taxes during your employment there. Any private disability insurance you have also doesn't count. Civil service disability benefits and others for which FICA taxes weren't paid do count, however.

It works like this: The SSA adds up those benefits and, if their total exceeds 80 percent of your average earnings before your disabling accident or injury, the agency could subtract the excess from your Social Security disability benefits. In Maryland, however, it's your workers' comp permanent total disability payment will be the one reduced.

For example, suppose your average monthly pay was $4,000. The SSA says that gives you a benefit of $2,200 per month. In Maryland, permanent total disability pays two-thirds of your average weekly pay, up to a maximum of $1,005. So, your PTD payment is about $667 per week, or $2,667 per month. That gives you total benefits of $4,867, but 80 percent of your pre-disability earnings is only $3,200. So, Maryland will subtract the excess $1,667 per month from your permanent total disability payment.

If you have questions about getting Social Security disability and workers' comp, a lawyer can answer them for you.

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