What is the difference between Social Security Disability and Permanent Total Disability?

Today I want to talk a little bit about the difference between Social Security Disability and Permanent Total Disability in Workers’ Compensation in Colorado.

Both are similar in the sense that they both pay benefits for the rest of your life if you’re unable to return to work. However, there is a difference: Social Security Disability takes into account all of the problems that you’ve got — whether it’s diabetes, or brain problems, or blood problems. All of those are considered by Social Security to determine whether or not you can return to work.

In Workers’ Compensation, the main focus is on an injury that happens at work. And so, for example, if you’ve hurt your back at work and it is diabetes that is keeping you from being able to return to work, then you’re not going to get Workers’ Compensation Permanent Total Disability.

So, for the Workers’ Compensation portion, it only has to be an inability to return to work just because of the work-related injury.

Now, the other difference between the two is that Social Security Disability goes to a hearing in front of the Social Security office judges; Workers’ Compensation is a state benefit and it goes to the individual states like here in Colorado.

The Social Security judges have a different criteria. They look at people 45 and under as one group, and then from 45 to 50, 50 to 55, 55 to 60, and then 60 to 65. As you get older, it becomes a little bit easier to get Social Security Disability because they have a different criteria for each of those groups.

In Workers’ Compensation, it doesn’t matter how old you are. You can be 29 or 59, and the criteria are the same: Can you return to work in any job? And that means ANY job: part time jobs, jobs that don’t pay very much, jobs that you wouldn’t even want or will take. If you can return to work in any job, you’re not entitled to Colorado Workers’ Compensation Permanent Total Disability benefits.

So, between the two — you could be entitled to both; you may be just entitled to one or the other — but in any event, if you need answers, at Burg Simpson we have an attorney that handles Social Security and we have attorneys that handle Workers’ Compensation. Please give us a call. You can reach us at 303.792.5595.

See the video at YouTube: Social Security Disability vs. Permanent Total Disability


The law firm of Burg Simpson knows how confusing and overwhelming the Workers’ Compensation process can be. There are complicated procedures to follow and strict time limits that must be met. If you have questions or are unsure about your whether you have a case, I am here for you. Email me or call me at 303.792.5595.

— John M. Connell, Colorado Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

John M. Connell

John M. Connell

Mr. Connell is a respected and experienced lawyer with more than 29 years of experience in the field, and has successfully handled thousands of claims on behalf of his clients.

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