Natalia Jofre: Hello and welcome to Hill and Ponton Social Security Disability blog. I’m Natalia Jofre, the Social Security section director-
Shelly Mark: And I’m Shelly Mark, I’m the senior Social Security attorney.
Natalia Jofre: So we’re continuing our series on workers’ compensation and Social Security disability benefits. We’ve had a lot of cases over the years where the claimant either received workers’ comp while they were trying to apply for benefits, or they settled a case, and I know that you have come across a specific situation many times when they’ve settled and what has resulted from that.
Shelly Mark: That’s right, Natalia. I have had a number of clients who have settled their workers’ comp claim. They were injured on the job and then maybe they were getting benefits, but at some point, they employed an attorney and they decided to ask for a settlement of benefits rather than ongoing benefits. What I see in the settlement contracts that I read is, the claimant or the client is asking to be found unable to perform their work any more for a lump sum of workers’ comp benefits. If that settlement is reached and agreed upon and everything becomes final, the cases that I’ve seen, that person does lose their job. So they’re not then allowed to continue that employment.
Shelly Mark: I would just advise individuals to really talk to their attorneys, really understand what that settlement contract and paperwork says, because if there is a small settlement amount, you need to weigh that against your annual salary and whether or not you could ask for some accommodations by that employer to some lighter type work. Because in the cases that I have worked with, they did lose their jobs.
Natalia Jofre: Yeah. And we’ve both seen cases where the employer maybe made accommodations for many years, to where they gave them treatment, they gave them weekly work comp benefits, and then once they got better, they were able to return to work, and then sometimes maybe reinjury occurs, so they go back off, they pay them some more, they get the rehabilitated, then they go back to work.
Natalia Jofre: But what Shelly’s talking about is at the end of the case, or if the doctor basically says, “You’ve reached maximum medical improvement,” or something to that effect, and now there’s nothing more we can do for you, so the client is saying, “Well, now I’m just going to settle my case.” But you’ve seen some pretty drastic results. I mean, you can have a settlement that’s significantly high, but then you can have a case where you’re settling for $7,000 and you’re losing a $30,000 job. So you have to weigh all of that and talk to your attorney about what’s best for you and whether you are, in fact, going to lose your job.
Natalia Jofre: What is this going to mean? What’s the ramifications of this settlement after you’ve filed it?
Shelly Mark: Right.
Natalia Jofre: And the other thing is, I’ve seen settlements left open to where we’re going to pay your future medical, and then I’ve seen settlements where they say, “We’re giving you this money, we’re done. You’re not getting any more medical treatment from us, you’re not getting any more money from us.” So you need to understand, and all of the settlements are really different.
Shelly Mark: They’re all very different, and from clients that I’ve had and talked to, there are many, I wouldn’t say most, but many clients don’t understand what they’re signing. It’s very important, because like you said, as far as, are you going to have any medical care moving forward, are you not? Are you losing your employment? What is your attorney’s fee?
Shelly Mark: If it’s a $7,000 settlement and you have to pay an attorney’s fee out of that as well, so just try to be informed when you reach the settlement and definitely ask your attorney all of those questions.
Natalia Jofre: The medical treatment’s a big thing. It just came to mind, because if you are not going to have continued medical treatment through workers’ comp, and now you’re applying for Social Security, and it’s going to take three years for you to be approved, or even if you are approved, there’s a two year waiting period for Medicare, what are you going to do for medical treatment during that period of time? So if your injury’s significant enough to where you can’t work any more, it would seem that you need to have that ongoing medical treatment. So ask those questions.
Shelly Mark: Definitely.
Natalia Jofre: Yeah.
Natalia Jofre: Thank you for joining us. If you have any questions, feel free to call our office or visit our website. We’ll continue this series on workers’ comp and Social Security. Until that next time, thanks for joining us.
Shelly Mark: Thank you.