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Court Makes Landmark Decision in Social Security Disability Case

The state Supreme Court of South Carolina decided a landmark case for the state. The decision will ensure larger and more equitable Social Security disability income for workers who face career-ending injuries. Because of the decision the permanently injured worker from the case will receive hundreds of dollars more every month in benefits.

The court ruled that the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission has the ability to choose the method of accounting in determining the amount for an injured worker's compensation benefits. Insurance companies argued the Commission did not have the power and that the insurance industry could complete the math for the state right. Before the ruling, insurance companies in South Carolina would approach temporarily and permanently injured workers entitled to Social Security Disability and provide workers with the choice of greater monthly payments but smaller overall awards. One of the justices that heard the case called the method something similar to extortion.

The worker from the case fell down a flight of stairs while working at a dress shop and suffered a back injury that put her permanently out of work. The injured worker was deemed "totally and permanently disabled" and was entitled to 10 years of unemployment benefits. Until the ruling the amount of Social Security Disability benefits she would receive was undetermined.

The attorney that represented the insurance company said workers on Social Security Disability should not receive as much they made in their previous position because it would be a disincentive to return to work. A public aid attorney that commented on the case said that receiving Social Security Disability and workers' compensation is a modest means to live on.

Before the accident the injured worker made $605 per week. Had the insurance company's accounting determined the compensation amount, the worker would have received $88 to $269 per week in Social Security disability payments. The ruling will allow for a more equitable amount.

Source: The Sun News, "S.C. Court Ruling Expands Disability Pay for Injured Workers," Katy Stech, 10/31/10

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