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New Study Disputes Cost-Shifting Between Workers’ Comp & SSDI

by Levin & Nalbandyan, LLP
May 16, 2018

A recent study from the National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc. challenges the idea that the costs for caring for injured workers has shifted to Social Security Disability Insurance. The study focuses on interactions between SSDI and workers’ compensation benefits, and analyzes the cost-shifting that sometimes occurs between the two programs.

Jim Davis, the director and actuary for NCCI said, “There have been some allegations or thoughts that perhaps workers comp cuts in benefits or the tightening of compensability standards at the state level might induce injured workers to file for SSDI … we found that the majority of states did not decrease benefits with a specific focus on permanent partial disability and permanent total disability.”

Reviewing the total amount paid through SSDI is important for injured workers. Emily Spieler, a professor of law at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, said “Over the last 20 years with changes in workers compensation laws, people have always gotten injured at work, they have gotten permanent partial disability settlements, they have tried to go back to work and haven’t been able to return. They will apply for Social Security disability, sometimes while they are receiving the partial benefits, but the amount that is paid out by Social Security over a lifetime for someone who has a workplace injury may be far higher than is paid by workers compensation.”

The NCCI study showed the most significant change that happened in the number of SSDI applications occurred during the recession from 2007-2009. “The largest increase in SSDI applications was during the great recession and this is common across states … and that is in contrast or versus any kind of activity at the state level,” said Jim Davis.

Speiler argues that there are still three questions remaining, and the research from NCCI answers one of these questions. According to Speiler, “the first is to what extent does workers compensation pay for the costs of disability arising out of injury or illness? … the second question is to what extent have what they call ‘benefit changes’ had an impact on this cost shift? And there I think the report is accurate … the third question is … whether changes in the law have led to reductions in the amount that people are getting in workers compensation, not because the weekly benefits are different but because the way claims are looked at is different.”

The workers' compensation attorneys at Levin & Nalbandyan, LLP are committed to helping injured workers protect their rights. We have helped employees throughout California obtain the benefits that they deserve for their workplace injury. If you have a workers’ comp dispute, we can help.

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