Our clients often ask us how disability benefits relate to unemployment benefits. While unemployment and disability benefits typically don’t overlap, it’s important to understand how unemployment may impact your disability claim. So, can you collect unemployment while on Social Security Disability? Let’s cover the basics of both programs below.
Can You Collect Unemployment While on Social Security Disability?
The Federal disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) which is based on a candidate’s work history and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) which is a needs-based program, are designed for individuals with severe medical limitations preventing them from working. The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers these programs in accordance with federal regulation.
In contrast, state governments administer unemployment programs. As a result, the benefit amount and eligibility periods differ by state. Unemployment programs help individuals who were fired from their job bridge the gap between the former job and their new job. Because of this, unemployment benefits are temporary. State laws often require unemployed people to continue searching for full-time work while receiving benefits.
Because the unemployment and disability programs serve different purposes, their benefits do not overlap.
Can an Unemployment Claim Impact a Disability Claim?
To receive disability benefits, a claimant must demonstrate they have been out of work or will be out of work for 12 consecutive months. If a younger individual loses their job, files for unemployment benefits, and then drops out of the workforce due to a disability, SSA may question the timeline. That’s because younger individuals have a higher standard to meet than older claimants. Let’s review an example.
Ex) A 35-year-old forklift operator loses his job and files for unemployment benefits. Each week, he checks a form that states he is actively looking for full-time work. Because he suffers from neuromuscular impairments that make it difficult for him to operate a forklift occasionally, he can’t find a job. Eventually he files for disability benefits when his unemployment benefits end. In his claim, he lists the day he lost his job as the day his disability began.
When the claim progresses to a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) asks the claimant why he continued to look for work when receiving unemployment benefits. He answers by saying he could still do the work and perform other jobs, just not at his previous level of intensity. The ALJ finds that the claimant isn’t disabled and per the program recommendations, suggests the claimant seek out less demanding work.
In the example above, we can see how the claimant’s history of unemployment benefits may impact their disability claim. Older claimants (> 50 years old) may have different outcomes. Let’s use the same example above, but change the claimant’s age from 35 to 50. In this case, the ALJ finds the claimant disabled because he cannot adapt to new work. His unemployment history supports this because it suggests he can no longer operate forklifts in a full-time capacity.
SSDI and Pandemic Unemployment
Over the last two years, Congress approved several large stimulus packages which included extended unemployment benefits for eligible people. The SSA does not penalize claimants who received these unemployment benefits in past.
Claimants applying for SSDI or SSI benefits who also received pandemic unemployment benefits must meet the SSA’s definition of disability to qualify for either program.
Disability Lawyers in Charlotte NC
This content was provided by Collins Price, PLLC. Our experienced disability lawyers in Charlotte, NC are kind and client-focused. If you are applying for or appealing a denied disability claim, contact our firm today for a free consultation. There is no obligation to hire our firm and no fee for our services unless you win your claim.