The workers’ compensation system provides replacement income, medical expenses, and sometimes, vocational rehabilitation benefits — that is, on-the-job training, schooling, or job placement assistance. The benefits paid through workers’ compensation, however, are almost always relatively modest.
If you become temporarily unable to work, you’ll usually receive two-thirds of your average wage up to a fixed ceiling. But because these payments are tax-free, if you received decent wages prior to your injury, you’ll fare reasonably well in most states. You will be eligible for these wage-loss replacement benefits as soon as you’ve lost a few days of work because of an injury or illness that is covered by workers’ compensation.
If you become permanently unable to do the work you were doing prior to the injury, or unable to do any work at all, you may be eligible to receive long-term or lump-sum benefits. The amount of the payment will depend on the nature and extent of your injuries. If you anticipate a permanent work disability, contact your local workers’ compensation office as soon as possible; these benefits are rather complex and may take a while to process.
Social Security Benefits for the Permanently Disabled
If you’re permanently unable to return to work, you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. Social Security Disability will, over the long run, provide more benefits than workers’ compensation — but be forewarned that these benefits are hard to get. They are reserved for seriously injured workers. To qualify, your injury or illness:
- must prevent you from doing any “substantial gainful work,” and
- must be expected to last at least twelve months or to result in death.
If you think you may meet the above requirements, contact your local Social Security office.