Buffalo Law Journal published a guest column by noted Buffalo Social Security disability attorney Thomas Burnham on navigating the complicated issues involved in applying for Social Security disability benefits once an injured person’s workers’ compensation benefits end.
Click here for the article.
Mr. Burnham notes, “In recent years, a negative light has been progressively cast on the Social Security disability system in the media and political arena. While some grow increasingly skeptical, others are growing increasingly dependent on it.”
Reform changed the landscape
He discusses the impact that Workers’ Compensation Reform, enacted in 2007, has had on injured workers. The reform placed a cap on the number of weeks an injured worker is able to receive permanent disability benefits, leaving Social Security disability as the only resource once the cap is reached for the injured who cannot return to work.
“The cap ranges from 225 to 525 weeks,” Mr. Burnham points out, “depending on the degree of earning capacity that has been lost. Only injured workers found to have a permanent total disability are eligible for payments beyond 525 weeks.”
“The 2007 reform is particularly hard on any worker who is significantly injured well before retirement age,” he explains. “Social Security retirement benefits do not begin until age 62. If, for instance, an individual injured on the job is assessed a permanent disability at age 50, his or her workers’ compensation payments are likely to exhaust years before age 62.”
Closing the gap
Mr. Burnham explains that Social Security disability benefits can bridge the gap between when workers’ compensation benefits end and Social Security retirement benefits begin. “This is not a welfare system,” he cautions, “but an earned, long-term disability program. The taxes deducted from your paycheck for Social Security retirement also are for Social Security disability benefits.”
Unlike workers’ compensation, there is no cap on the amount of time an eligible person may receive Social Security disability. Once the person reaches full retirement age, the benefits convert to Social Security retirement payments.
Difficult to get but often crucial
Mr. Burnham explains how to best navigate the Social Security system in his article. The process for obtaining disability benefits, he notes “is tedious and time consuming.”
“Social Security disability benefits are vital to disabled Americans,” Mr. Burnham says in summary, “and now even more important to injured workers subject to the 2007 New York Workers’ Compensation Reform. While the system may be challenging to navigate at times, Social Security disability is a valuable resource to pursue for those who qualify.”
Mr. Burnham, a senior partner in Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Social Security Disability Practice Area, works to help disabled individuals receive all the benefits they are entitled. In addition to Social Security disability, he helps clients obtain benefits through supplemental security income, workers’ compensation, and veterans’ disability.