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What is the difference between social security disability and workers’ compensation?

By Burg Simpson

November 29, 2013   Colorado Blog, Colorado Workers' Compensation

There are two different types of lifelong compensation if your injury is bad enough that you will never be able to return to work. These types of compensation are called “Social Security Disability” and “Permanent Total Disability” in Colorado Workers’ Compensation law. These laws are different by state, so this article may serve as a guideline for people who don’t live in Colorado, but you should consult an attorney in your state if you are seeking either of these benefits.

Social Security Disability is available to anyone that has paid into the social security system over the last 5 years and is more comprehensive. Social Security takes into account all of your major medical problems like Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, etc. as well as any injuries, work or otherwise, when considering your ability to go back to work. On the other hand, Permanent Total Disability under the Colorado Workers’ Compensation system, is more restricted. It only considers whether your work injury has created a condition that restricts you from being able to return to any type of work. If there is a pre-existing condition to be considered, it must be the work injury that is “the straw that broke the camel’s back” and prevented you from being able to earn any income.

Another difference between Social Security Disability and Permanent Total Disability is the different legal process that they use. Social Security cases go in front of a judge from the Social Security Administration, which is a national, or federal, institution. Workers’ Compensation is a state institution, and is administered by each individual state. Workers’ Compensation laws are different in every state. Social Security also looks at people of different ages in a different way. They use a grid system to determine eligibility beginning at age 45, and changing every 5 years up to age 65. As a general rule, the older you are, the easier it is to qualify for Social Security Disability.

For Workers’ Compensation, your age doesn’t matter. All groups have the same criteria for deciding whether or not you qualify for Permanent Total Disability: “Can you return to ANY job at all?” This means part-time work, poor paying work, and even jobs you might not want to do or would never accept. It will be up to a judge to listen to testimony from doctors and vocational specialists to decide if your injury means you cannot work at all in the future.

If you will be able to work, it doesn’t mean you get nothing. Your lawyer will still be fighting to get your medical bills paid and a sum of money to cover your costs while you were out of work. You may also qualify for Permanent Partial disability, as determined by the authorized treating physician. Additionally, you can qualify for both Social Security and Workers’ Compensation, or either, separately.

The law can be very complicated and overwhelming, even when it is trying to help you. As always, most Workers’ Compensation attorneys (myself included) will evaluate your case for free or talk with you to clarify your rights, all it takes is a call. If you have been hurt and want someone to fight for you, call me at 303-792-5595 or submit a request for someone from our office to contact you.

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