Unemployment and Social Security Disability

social security disability

Being eligible for social security disability (SSDI) benefits means that you have suffered an injury or an illness that prevents you from working for an extended period of time.   On the other hand, being eligible for unemployment benefits means that you are able to work, but have been unable to find employment.  So, it appears inconsistent for someone to be eligible to receive both unemployment benefits and SSDI since one requires you to be able to work and one requires you to be unable to work.  Oddly enough, according to a Raleigh social security disability lawyer, the law does not explicitly prevent someone receiving SSDI from also receiving unemployment benefits.  How is this possible?


Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration's (SSA) position is that receiving unemployment benefits does not automatically make you ineligible to receive SSDI.  In fact, by stating that unemployment benefits do not count under the Social Security Annual earnings test and therefore do not affect receipt of social security benefits, the SSA acknowledges that it is possible to be eligible for both.  From a practical standpoint, however, an SSDI claims examiner may view collecting unemployment benefits as an indicator that you are not disabled.  At a minimum, the examiner will consider it as a factor among many in determining whether or not you are eligible to receive SSDI.

If you are in this position then it is important that you are able to clearly show the SSA evidence of your disability and how it limits you.  You should also be prepared to show what types of jobs you have been applying for and why you would be able to work that type of job despite your disability.  For example, if your disability prevents you from performing physical labor, but the jobs you have applied for require a significant amount of physical labor, then the SSA will likely reject your claim.


Risk in applying for both

It often takes 3 months to over a year for the SSA to approve SSDI applications.  In the meantime, applicants are in a difficult position.  Because they are sick or injured they are unable to work.  However, because their SSDI applications have not been approved, they are left without an income.  Applying for unemployment benefits is an attractive option.  Approval for unemployment benefits is typically fast-- often a matter of just a few days.

However, applying for unemployment benefits while waiting for a social security disability claim to be approved is not without risk.  The risk is that if your disability claim is approved, then you may have to repay the unemployment benefits.  The unemployment office may determine that since you have a disability, you were never eligible for unemployment benefits.


Successfully receiving both

Applying for and being approved for both SSDI and unemployment benefits is unusual, but not impossible.  You would have to get approved by the SSA for SSDI.  Then you would have to convince your local unemployment office that despite having a disability there are still employers out there that would hire you. It is just difficult to find a job with such an employer.  Ultimately, you have to prepared to convince both agencies that there is no legal justification for denying either claim.

Given that the SSA is known for taking a long time to approve benefits, what options are available to someone who is facing severe financial problems while awaiting approval from the SSA?

Mounier, A. 2013, Unemployment and Social Security Disability.

Tags: Social Security, Social Security Disability, Ssdi,