The Federal government announced a new stimulus bill this week which extends federal unemployment benefits for workers displaced by the Covid-19 pandemic through September. This federal boost to North Carolina’s existing unemployment benefits has now been in place for over a year and may impact disability claimants.
Who Qualifies for Disability Benefits?
Disability benefits from both Federal programs – Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – provide necessary financial assistance for individuals who cannot work due to severe medical impairments.
SSDI and SSI are not designed to be a temporary replacement for work until you can find another job. Instead, claimants often suffer from severe and long-lasting complications which make it impossible for them to return to work in any capacity.
How Much Does Disability Pay Each Month?
The payment disability claimants receive depends on which Social Security program they qualify for. The Federal Social Security Disability Insurance Program (SSDI) pays benefits based on your average lifetime earnings. The Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits based on the SSI Federal benefit rate less any countable income you may have.
The AIME determines your monthly benefit amount. Generally speaking, the more you have in qualified earnings, the more your benefit will be. The max monthly payment for SSDI in 2021 is $3,148.
Maximum Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment amounts increase with the cost-of-living increases that apply to Social Security benefits. The latest such increase, 1.3 percent, became effective January 2021. For 2021, the maximum benefit is $794 monthly for individuals, and $1,191 for eligible couples.
How Can Unemployment Benefits Impact Disability?
Unemployment insurance benefits provide temporary financial assistance to workers unemployed through no fault of their own that meet North Carolina’s eligibility requirements.
To be eligible for this benefit program, you must be a resident of North Carolina and meet all of the following qualifications:
- Unemployed, and
- Recent work in North Carolina during the past 12 months (this period may be longer in some cases), and
- Earned a minimum amount of wages determined by North Carolina guidelines, and
- Actively seeking work each week you are collecting benefits.
To receive disability benefits, you typically must be out of work or expect to be out of work for 12 months or longer. But as is noted in the qualifications above, to receive unemployment you must be actively seeking work each week to continue collecting benefits.
Can I Be Disabled and Looking for Work?
The key issue at stake is that if you allege disability, to be successful you must prove you cannot do work of any kind. But, if you file for and are receiving unemployment benefits, you are attesting to the fact that you are actively looking for work.
This can be confusing but is not something that typically presents a problem for our claimants. It is not unusual for disabled individuals to lose their job and to attempt to return to the workforce. Along the way, their medical condition continues to deteriorate and many find it impossible to get another job.
This is particular true during a period of unprecedented economic disruption like what we’ve experienced with Covid-19. Therefore, although Social Security will be aware that you received unemployment benefits in the past, in our experience, that has little bearing on your future qualifications relating to disability programs. The Social Security Administration will look at the same qualifying factors for SSDI or SSI no matter if you have received unemployment benefits in the past or not.
In our experience, some Judges may bring unemployment up in broader conversations about an individual’s working history during a hearing. But, that’s why it’s important to have a qualified disability lawyer representing you throughout your claim so they can provide needed context and background on the larger picture.
So, in closing, if you are currently receiving traditional or extended unemployment benefits and have been or expect to be out of work for 12 months or longer, you should consider filing for disability. Contact us today – we’d be happy to offer you a free consultation on your claim.