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Man gets both workers' comp and Social Security disability

The reported case considers the question of whether a social security disability recipient can also receive worker's compensation benefits for a separate work-related disability. It's not a Pennsylvania case but the principle is more than likely applicable here and in most states. An appellate court ruled that an award of Social Security disability benefits does not automatically disqualify the recipient from receiving workers' compensation.

A worker had a work-related injury when the hood of a work truck fell on top of him, causing lower back injury and pain. He had surgery to try and correct the problem. After being back at work he resigned when he discovered having an unrelated brain tumor. The non-work related tumor qualified him for Social Security disability benefits.

A loss of earning capacity analysis determined that he had a 70 percent loss of earning capacity from the tumor. Due to continuing back pain, he underwent another back surgery for the work-related injury. His doctor declared him unemployable, and he applied to reopen his workers' compensation benefits. The case went to a Nebraska appellate court which held that he was entitled to temporary total disability comp benefits for the work-related injury.

The employer argued that he was already totally disabled and collecting Social Security disability, which disqualified him for workers' comp benefits. The court disagreed, and explained that the worker resigned because of his brain tumor, not his back injury. During the next two years, he continued to suffer from back pain while his brain tumor remained stable.

Before his second surgery, he was not 100 percent disabled from the tumor. The worker's doctors did not state that he was totally disabled until after the second back surgery. The court found no evidence that he was totally disabled by a condition unrelated to his work at the time of his second surgery.

The bottom line is that he retained some residual earning capacity before his second surgery despite the award of Social Security disability benefits. Ultimately, the decision was based on the premise that a worker can receive both workers' compensation and Social Security benefits. This is a logically sound principle that may have a good likelihood of being applied also by the Pennsylvania courts.

Source: riskandinsurance.com, Worker's Social Security benefits don't end entitlement to TTD benefits, No author, Oct. 21, 2013

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