Ohio Supreme Court Strengthens Voluntary Abandonment Defense in the Workers’ Compensation AreaMarch 11, 2014
Court of Appeals Clarifies Statute of Limitations for Occupational Disease ClaimsJune 5, 2014
When someone tells you they are totally disabled and are now eligible or are receiving Social Security disability benefits, does that mean they are incapable of engaging in any gainful employment? The Social Security Administration’s rules address this question. There are now several different programs set up through Social Security to create incentives for individuals with disabilities to return to work. You might be surprised at how much flexibility the Social Security Administration gives to individuals who are receiving Social Security disability benefits in terms of their ability to work and receive other income.
For instance, the Social Security Administration will allow an individual who is determined to be eligible for disability benefits and/or is receiving those benefits to engage in a “trial work period.” The trial work period allows the individual to test their ability to work for at least nine months. During the trial work period, the individual can receive their full Social Security disability benefits regardless of much they earn, as long as they report their work activity and they continue to have a disabling impairment. Therefore, for at least nine months, individuals receiving Social Security disability can engage in gainful employment with absolutely no limitation on the number of hours or amount of income that they receive. Also, the nine month period does not have to be consecutive months of employment. The trial work period continues until you have worked nine months within a sixty month period.
Even after engaging in full employment for the trial period, an individual may also continue to receive their disability during what is called an “extended period of eligibility.” After the trial work period, an individual is allotted thirty-six months during which they can work and still receive benefits for any month when their earnings are not “substantial.” In 2014, the Social Security Administration considers monthly earnings over $1,070.00 ($1,800 if the individual is blind) to be substantial. No new application or disability decision is needed for a person to receive the Social Security disability benefits during this period of employment, so long as your earnings are not considered substantial. If the individual does receive substantial earnings during this period, their benefits will be suspended. However, an individual is given a five year grace period in which they may ask to have their benefits reinstated immediately and the individual will not have to file a new disability application or wait for their medical condition to be reviewed to make sure they are still disabled.
The new incentive programs through the Social Security Administration highlight the very important distinction between a finding of total disability under Social Security and a finding of permanent total disability under Ohio’s workers’ compensation system. Receipt of Social Security disability benefits does not, in and of itself, mean that the individual has removed himself or herself from the workforce for purposes of eligibility for Ohio’s workers compensation benefits. Further information is needed. In particular, employers should always inquire if the individual is also working while receiving their Social Security disability benefits.