I get this question a lot. Whether it’s Workers’ Comp or Social Security Disability, clients are sometimes confused about whether going back to work is “bad” or can somehow “hurt” their case. So let me be clear: in my opinion it’s almost always better to go back to work, if you can, rather than depend on Workers’ Comp or Social Security payments. But here’s some common questions and my answer to those questions:
Q: Since I filed for comp against my employer, doesn’t this mean I can never work there again?
A: This is not true. I have plenty of clients who may even have several accidents at different times all at the same employer, filed for comp each time and continue to work there.
Q: Will I lose my Social Security Disability (SSD) case if I return to work?
A: Possibly. To be found disabled in a SSD case, an individual must be unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death, or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.But, and this is a big but, once you meet the 12-month requirement, if you return to work afterwards, you may still receive benefits, after a 5-month waiting period, for the time you were out of work! This is called a “closed period” type of case. In other words, once you are out at least 12 months, if you are awarded benefits you can get them until you return to work, and even sometimes later on if you go back out of work.
Q. My treating Workers’ comp doctor told me that I shouldn’t work but the company doctor cleared me. What should I do?
A. The best advice is to always follow your own doctor’s advice about returning to work. If there is a conflict between doctors, that is why there are Judges at the Workers’ Compensation Board—to decide these kinds of disputes.
Q. What’s a Trial Work Period in Social Security?
A: To quote from the SSA website:
We have special rules that allow people who get Social Security disability benefits to work without losing their monthly benefits.
A trial work period allows you to test your ability to work for at least nine months and receive full Social Security benefits regardless of how much you are earning as long as you disabled.
After your trial work period, you are allowed a period of 36 months during which you can work and still receive benefits for any month your earnings are not substantial.
So, to sum up, it’s never “bad” to return to work after you have applied for comp or SSD. What IS bad? Returning to work but NOT TELLING THE INSURANCE COMPANY IN A COMP CASE OR THE GOVERNMENT IN A SSD CASE. Bottom line: As long as you INFORM THEM that you have returned to work, there’s nothing to be afraid of!
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