Workers’ Comp and Long-Term Disability – What’s the Difference?

A work injury may lead to a long-term disability, in some cases permanently limiting one’s ability to work. In Illinois, disability benefits are available under workers’ compensation, though there is one other option available as well—Social Security disability insurance (SSDI). These two types of benefits work in different ways, and it’s important to know which will benefit you most in the event of a job-related injury.

Workers’ Compensation

The ultimate purpose of workers’ compensation is to cover your expenses in the event of a work-related injury. In Illinois, that typically means medical expenses and related costs, though it can cover lost wages, job rehabilitation, and long-term disability, especially if an injury leaves you permanently crippled.

Workers’ compensation is provided through your employer’s workers’ comp insurance, and it’s state law for every employer (with a few minor exceptions) to carry that insurance. As such, if you have been injured on the job, it is within your rights to receive that compensation.

Disability Benefits in Illinois

When a work injury causes lasting trauma and disability, disability benefits are often given on top of coverage for medical expenses. The types of benefits offered under Illinois workers’ compensation law include the following:

  • TPD: Temporary Partial Disability
  • TTD: Temporary Total Disability
  • PPD: Permanent Partial Disability
  • PTD: Permanent Total Disability

For temporary disability, benefits are designed to cover part of the income you’d lose due to your injury, and they last until you’re able to return to your normal work duties. Permanent disability varies depending on your situation, but it’s intended to cover lost wages for a longer period of time (in the case of PTD, for life). However, permanent disability is often awarded as a lump sum settlement.

It’s important to note that the qualifier for workers’ comp disability is whether you are able to fulfill your normal work duties. As such, you don’t necessarily need to be completely unable to perform any job, just the one that you were performing. The exception is permanent total disability, in which you need to be deemed completely unable to work in order to qualify.

Social Security Disability

In addition to workers’ comp benefits offered under Illinois law, some individuals may qualify for benefits from the Social Security Administration. Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, is intended to cover lost wages for those who are deemed totally unable to work.

Whether you are deemed completely unable to work depends on your meeting specific criteria set forth in their medical guide, called the Blue Book. In addition, to qualify for SSDI benefits, you’ll need to have contributed a certain amount to the SSA through taxes. If you have been working full time for the last decade or two, you most likely qualify.

Choosing the Best Route

It’s possible to qualify for both workers’ compensation and SSDI benefits, but know that the two programs have different qualifications that need to be met. For workers’ compensation, the injury needs to be work-related, whereas SSDI benefits are based on whether or not you are completely disabled.

For help navigating the process of applying for these benefits, you’ll want an attorney on your side. Doing so will improve your chances of approval and make the process far less stressful.

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