You might be eligible to get permanent partial disability benefits through the workers' compensation system if you you suffer a permanent impairment after being injured at work or becoming ill from conditions at work. You don't have to be totally disabled or unable to work to receive permanent disability benefits through workers' comp. For example, if you lose the use of a body part, such as a finger, or following your injury your doctor gives you job restrictions such as "no heavy lifting," then you can get permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits.
Only if you are completely disabled (totally unable to work) or if you lost the use of both eyes, hands, arms, or legs, are you considered totally disabled and eligible for permanent total disability (PTD) benefits.
To get workers' comp benefits, you need to file a worker's comp claim with your employer's insurance company.
Getting Your PPD Benefit
After you notify your employer of your injury, you'll seek medical treatment. The treatment will continue until either you've recovered or until you've improved as much as the doctor believes that you will improve (called maximal medical improvement, or MMI). At that point, if you have any remaining impairment, your doctor or state workers' comp agency will "rate" your permanent disability -- that is, assign a number or percentage to your disability that represents how disabled you are and how much you should get in permanent disability benefits.
In some states, your permanent disability rating is then used either to establish how many weeks of disability payments at a fixed rate you'll get (from 3 weeks to 1000 weeks, depending on your rating and your state) or to determine your weekly disability rate that you'll receive indefinitely.
Receiving Permanent Disability Benefit Payments
After your permanent disability is rated, your employer's insurance company will send you a letter either offering to start your weekly or biweekly permanent disability payments or offering to pay you a lump-sum payment. Once your settlement is approved by a workers' comp judge, you will start receiving regular PPD benefit checks.
However, if you are also receiving Social Security disability benefits, when you receive your permanent disability award, your Social Security disability payments will be reduced. Your SSI or SSDI disability benefits will be decreased so that the combined amount of your Social Security disability benefit plus your worker's compensation benefit doesn't exceed 80% of your average earnings when you were working. But don't worry, the combined benefit amount will never be less than what your Social Security benefits were before you received the workers' compensation award. If you opt for a lump-sum workers' compensation payment rather than weekly or biweekly payments, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will treat it as if you were being paid weekly or biweekly.
Learn more about workers' comp benefits.