Social Security and Workers Compensation

Social Security Disability and Workmen’s Compensation are both programs created to protect a worker if they should become unable to work.  They are similar because the worker and the employer contribute to the programs.  Social Security is a Federal program.  Workmen’s Compensation claims can be made through a state or federal agency and its requirements are less stringent than those for Social Security Disability.  

How does Workmen’s Compensation differ from Social Security Disability?

Workmen’s Compensation differs from Social Security Disability benefits in the following ways:

  • The injury or illness must be related to the claimant’s work.
  • Benefits can be paid for partial disability
  • Benefits can be paid for increases in the severity of the disability.
  • Benefits can be paid for short-term disability.
  • No payments are allotted to the family of the worker unless the worker’s illness or injury causes death.
  • Disability determinations usually occur much faster

Social Security Disability benefits are paid to persons because they cannot work because of a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death.  Federal law requires this very strict definition.  Social security does not pay partial or short-term disability.  The medical condition or illness does not have to be work related.  

Can you receive Social Security Disability and Workmen’s Compensation?

It is possible to receive Social Security Disability and Workmen’s Compensation at the same time.  For instance if you contracted cancer because of a chemical you were required to work with through your employment and became unable to work you would be entitled to Workmen’s compensation.  You would also be entitled to Social Security benefits if the Cancer was expected last at least a year and would result in your death. Unfortunately, the amount of Workmen’s Compensation you receive can affect the amount of your Social Security Disability benefits.  The total of benefits you receive from both programs cannot exceed 80 percent of your average current earnings before you became disabled.

Do you need legal advice and how can you get it?

Social Security Disability and Workmen’s Compensation laws are complex.  Self-help is not a wise option in dealing with the requirements of each program.  The good news is you do not have to go it alone, both programs allow for the payment of legal fees.  Social Security will pay fees to your representative, if you have a fee agreement or a fee petition is filed.  Social Security will not pay more than 25% of past due benefits or $6,000 whichever is less. Workmen’s Compensation also allows for payment of legal fees; the maximum allowed payment is dependent upon state or federal statute depending upon the jurisdiction.


Social Security Disability and Workmen’s Compensation are programs that provide income to workers who can no longer work because of illness, injury, or medical condition.  The requirements of each program are different.  Workmen’s Compensation will pay partial and temporary disability and is easier to get then Social Security Disability.  Social Security Disability will provide income for conditions that are not work related.  Each program allows for the payment of legal fees to encourage claimants to seek legal counsel.

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