Before you settle your Iowa workers’ compensation claim, it’s important to discuss with your attorney the effects a settlement may have on other benefits you receive. Settlement income can affect your eligibility or reduce your benefit amounts for many government programs.
What Benefits May Be Affected?
The federal Social Security Administration (SSA) administers a number of different benefits programs, including retirement benefits, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits for workers who become mentally or physically disabled, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to help low-income disabled individuals meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. The federal government also administers Medicare, which is the national health insurance program for people 65 or older. These programs consider your age, employment history and contributions, health, and financial situation to various degrees when determining your eligibility.
State and local benefits you should consider include subsidized housing such as HUD or section 8 housing programs, Medicaid (state-administered health insurance for low-income individuals), Iowa Low Income Home Energy Assistance, and other Iowa benefits programs. Each program has its own mix of eligibility standards and benefits, although several programs that maintain their own income and resource eligibility caps apply SSI eligibility standards to determine an applicant’s countable income and resources.
While you may be entitled to collect some of these benefits in addition to workers’ compensation benefits, it is important to structure your settlement appropriately to make sure you remain eligible for each program, both now and in the future. Since many programs have income or financial asset caps on participation, it makes sense to ensure that your settlement won’t prevent you from qualifying if you need them at some point. For example, if you are eligible or will become eligible for Medicare in the foreseeable future, the terms of your workers’ compensation settlement should incorporate a “Medicare set aside” as part of the agreement so you remain eligible for non-injury-related healthcare coverage under that program.
How Do I Protect Myself?
Your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer may offer you a settlement for your injuries to compensate you for your loss of earning capacity and long-term disability. However, accepting a general, unstructured settlement may jeopardize your eligibility for other benefits if it counts as income or available financial resources. Using strategies like setting up discretionary, special needs, or self-settled trusts, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can ensure that your workers’ compensation settlement funds will help you provide for your future needs without reducing your eligibility for benefits. Correctly setting up a trust that protects you can be confusing and complicated, so it’s vital that you engage an attorney who understands the complexities of these trusts and all the applicable rules and requirements and can help you understand your options.
It’s also important to ensure that your workers’ compensation settlement provides for repaying Medicare or Medicaid any amounts that either program has already paid on your behalf for your work-related injuries. Federal laws entitle Medicare to recover the costs of future injury-related treatment. This is the purpose of including the above-mentioned “Medicare set aside” portion in a settlement; another option is to structure the settlement so that the worker compensation insurer is obligated to pay future medical costs related to the injury as they arise. Having an attorney review your settlement options can help you decide what the best course of action is to comply with Medicare requirements while providing for your future needs.
You should seek the advice of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help you determine your benefit eligibility, structure a settlement, create an appropriate trust, or take other actions to preserve your eligibility for any of these benefits. The skilled attorneys at the Platt Law Firm will help you through the often confusing workers’ compensation system from filing to settlement and help you obtain all the benefits you deserve. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.