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How Unemployment Benefits Can Compromise Your Social Security Disability Claim

Many individuals wonder if it is possible to collect unemployment benefits when filing a Social Security Disability claim. After all, the Social Security Disability claim process can take months, if not years, to complete. Wouldn't it be convenient if you could obtain unemployment benefits while you wait? More importantly, is it legal to do so? There is technically no law stating that you cannot apply for Social Security Disability benefits while receiving unemployment payments. That does not mean, however, that your unemployment benefits will not affect your eligibility for the Social Security Disability payments you may need.

Apples and Oranges

You need to understand that the Social Security Disability and unemployment programs are two totally different types of government assistance programs. Unemployment benefits are for those who are not disabled. Those who are receiving unemployment benefits are actively seeking work, trying to find a job and receiving financial assistance until that job is found. Those who are applying for Social Security Disability benefits, on the other hand, are stating that they are unable to perform any type of work activity and that they are completely disabled. Because of this, a claim for disability benefits may mean that you are obtaining unemployment benefits under false pretenses.

If you apply for Social Security Disability benefits while receiving unemployment, it is as if you are contradicting yourself. You are collecting unemployment benefits, which indicates that you are willing and able to work. However, on the other hand, you are applying for Social Security Disability benefits, which indicates that you are completely and totally disabled and not able to perform any type of work in the national economy.

You May Be Shooting Yourself in the Foot

If you apply for Social Security Disability benefits while you are collecting unemployment benefits, you may be shooting yourself in the foot. By collecting unemployment benefits, you are stating that you are willing and able to work, but have simply not been able to find work. This completely contradicts the qualifying criteria for Social Security Disability

In order to collect Social Security Disability, you must be completely disabled. This means that you are unable to work. Your best bet is to collect one or the other. If you are disabled, then do not apply for unemployment benefits. Instead, apply for Social Security Disability. If, however, you are not disabled but looking for new employment, unemployment benefits are the answer.


This stuff is crazy! I have call my quote "Case Worker" once a week and leave a message where I am very politely and say that I have a few questions and leave all my information, never get a call back, EVER! I have had a total of six surgeries in the last three years, I am 100% disabled through the Veterans, my primary and my Chiro say no how no way can I every go back to work. I applied going on six months ago. No calls, No return Calls, Nothing! I know they are busy but it would relive alot of frustration for the people they serve, that being the public, if they would just stay in contact with there clients. God Bless everyone on our countrys birthday.

You r so right, I have applied for over a thousand jobs in the past six months, When I state a medical condition as COPD I never hear back for a interview. At age 56 with COPD high blood presure and a lung missing how can i find a job that will hire me. I been denied for disability and had to hire a attorney to file the appeal. I will say thier are poeple who are now drawing SSDI that are more capable in better health than I,. But it seem they can be approved on the first claim. It is confussing and a lengthly process that must ensure that the i

I have almost one year in on filing for disability and so far just a denial. This is insane how long this takes. There is NO money. I cry all the time:(

Hi Penny, i'm sorry to hear about your denial from disability. To help, i'd suggest retaining representation if you haven't already. If you fill out the form on our homepage here a lawyer will contact you and help you with your case. Best of luck!

i'm on the same boat. I stopped working begining of Sept 2014 , hired a lawyer IMMEDIATLY to file for me andI STILL GOT DENIED! Im a young mom of 3 kids and they have to eat and dress!!!!

Hi Silvia,
Hopefully you can file for reconsideration and get approved. Good luck!

I have applied for SSDI multiple times in the past for multiple illnesses and have always been denied. I have been Bipolar for 29 years and have had 6 suicide attempts. My unemployment was approved in two weeks (unheard of) due to my employers not making proper accomidations for my Bipolar. I am 44 and have had about 50 jobs in my life, all quit due to Bipolar swings. To me, Unemployment supports my claim for Disability. But will that make a difference? No! They would rather approve someone because they are an alchoholic than someone who has had a life-long crippling illness. I just went to my SSDI forced Psychiatric evaluation and I feel as if I was literally emotionally raped! Not only that, but the Psychiatrist in question had medical records that neither I or my attorney had. I never authorized this disclosure and is a clear violation of HIPAA laws. Will this make a difference? Probably not. Maybe the question should be asked why Social Security Disability will give benefits to people who are "using" the system instead of the ones who need it.

I don't understand S.S.D.. To be awarded S.S.D. you must be unable to perform ANY type of work whatsoever. If you do get awarded you are then immediately given 9 trial work months that allow you to earn an unlimited amount of money. After you have used them and I'm sure S.S.D. will use them to reevaluate your disability, you are then allowed to earn up to $1000 per month before they consider the earnings substantial and then would affect you S.S.D. I live in Las Vegas and have been working the trade shows as security. That works out great because my body can handle about a weeks worth of standing and walking around before it gives out. An interesting thing happened though, there aren't any big trade shows in the summer and my boss told me to apply for unemployment. He doesn't know I'm disabled and on S.S.D.. It just has worked out that it has become necessary yet. So I have this unemployment question in reverse, seeing as I already have S.S.D.. Seeing as I don't work much my unemployment is only for ten weeks with a maximum benefit of about $1700. Now I know to file a claim I must be able to work and this is my dilemma. The claim doesn't specify that I must be able to seek and accept full-time work and my benefits don't reflect that of a full-time worker. I earned that $1700 and I'm willing to accept a similar job and hours but the plan is to go back when he needs me and that will be in less then the ten weeks. Now considering the totality of what I just posted it seems I would not be committing fraud with unemployment and still be within the rules of S.S.D.

Unemployment and Disability Claims pending. Did not realize I could not collect Unemployment while waiting on the disability claim decision. What should I do now? I am actually in appeal on UE and waiting for final decision on Disability? Having to pay my mortgage and buy food each month without help of UE would be impossible...unless I went on welfare? Do I withdraw my UE claim and pay that back or wait for Disabiity decision?

I am 29 yrs old. I have worked since I was 17. Last year I was diagnosed with end stage renal failure and have been on dialysis since then. I do perennial dialysis at home, at night while I sleep which still allows me to live an almost normal life throughout the day. I was told I could apply for disability and could not be refused. I turned that down because I felt as long as I can physically work, I'm going to work. However, in the last 6 months, I have had complications that has caused me to require surgeries and unexpected doctor visits which has caused me to miss work. I filed for disability back in June of this year. I was told it will take 5mons before I would get my first check. So not till Nov. I had to drop my hours at work from 40 to 29 because I was told I can't gross more than 1,070/mon. So for the past two to three months, I have been working 29hrs/wk. I'm having more complications with my dialysis and have to have surgery tomorrow actually.. I just got fired from my job because they say I have missed too much work, even though they know it has been out of my control. Now, I don't get my benefits from disability for another three months.. what am I to do until then? This is wrongful termination, so you would think I could get unemployment benefits but It would be pointless to say I can apply for jobs because I'll just get fired from them too because I'll miss due to medical conditions again. Furthermore, after my surgery tomorrow, I won't be able to work for the next month because I will be healing. Am I shooting myself in the foot for trying to get unemployment benefits?? The people working on my disability case, know that I have been working 29hrs and had intended to until I got my benefits. Now my employer has taken that income from me wrongly. Can I and should I..apply for unemployment? Please respond..

I'm sorry to hear about your situation. When contemplating if you should apply for unemployment or not in your situation, it's important to understand that unemployment benefits are for those who are not disabled. Those who are receiving unemployment benefits are actively seeking work, trying to find a job and receiving financial assistance until that job is found. I would suggest calling the SSA and explaining your specific case, you can call them toll-free at 1-800-772-1213.

I don’t know much about the unemployment benefits. I had discussed about this with one of my friends. But I didn’t understand it clearly. So can you please explain the procedures to file a social security disability claim? I will be waiting for your reply. <a href="">omnitech support</a>

Hi Steve,

Wowwee, that is a big question!

The first step in the Social Security Disability claim process is to file an application for disability benefits, which you can do online at the SSA's official website. You will submit your application to the SSA along with all of your medical evidence and supporting documentation such as doctor's notes saying you can't work, physical therapy, etc. Only 30 percent of Social Security Disability applications will be initially approved.

If your initial claim for Social Security Disability benefits is denied, you have 60 days to file an appeal with the SSA. Only 15% of reconsideration appeals are accepted.

You then go on to having a hearing to defend your case in front of a judge, which typically takes 3-5 months to schedule. This is where most people win their cases. Approximately 70% of claimants win their case in front of a judge.

One of the reasons why going to court is so successful is because many people choose to use a lawyer or disability advocate. They can help you fill out forms or defend you in court. To speak with a disability advocate in your area, you are welcome to take our Free Disability Evaluation.

Not true. One can be disabled...and not only work, but be fired! You make it sound like it is set in stone...when clearly it is not! A person can be extremely proactive, resilient, determined and perhaps even downright stubborn...trying to work and/or obtaining a job...but still actually be disabled... Expand your perspective to a bit more than a perfect world analogy... Thx...

Hi Dick,

Not 100% sure who you were responding to (I believe it was lgg), but just to clarify: You cannot receive both unemployment benefits and disability benefits at the same time. We understand that there are people who are extremely proactive and resilient, but the two benefits contradict each other. One is for people who are actively seeking work, and one is for people who are unable to work for at least a year due to a disability. A person can be disabled to some degree and still work, but someone receiving SSD benefits cannot work due to their disabilities. There is a fundamental difference between the two, so that's why we never recommend that someone apply for unemployment benefits while waiting to be approved by the SSA for disability benefits.

I received disability for all of the year 2013 applied for Social Security January of 2014 the disability finally came through and I received a lump sum check. The problem is is that I was on unemployment during the entire year of 2013 so my question is do I owe the unemployment back to the state that I received it from?

Hi Bruce,
I honestly do not know the answer to this question! You typically cannot receive both unemployment and disability payments at the same time. If the SSA had known that you were on unemployment, your disability back pay would have been reduced, or you may not have even be approved. I think the wisest move would be to report the income to the SSA and see if they make you pay a portion back. If they discover that you received unemployment benefits and did not report them, you may be liable for fraud and potentially lose your benefits.

let me restate the question. At the end of 2013 I quit unemployment compensation. In January of 2014 I went to Social Security and applied to so security for early retirement. In discussion with SSA I told them about health issues that I have and they suggested that I go ahead for disability also. In January 2015, I received a lump sum check from SS A for disability approved during 2013 as well as the additional disability for 2014. Social Security backpaid me for 2013 even though at the time that I applied for the disability I explained to ssa that I had been on unemployment during that year of 2013. I did not ask them to back pay me for that period of time but it was an automatic backpay based on medical history going back to 2012. I have gone to ssa and asked them about the unemployment for 2013 and the lump sum payment and have been told that I do not owe them or the state any monies back and have also been told I owe the monies back to the state. I have also gone to the IRS to ask about this and their response is that they only respond to taxation questions not to who pays money to me by any government agencies. Thanks for help

let me rephrase the events. I was on unemployment in 2013 and that expired at the end of 2013. In January of 2014, i went to SSA and applied for early retirement. Two separate events. While I was there they asked about health issues to see if I qualified for SSDI and they thought I did. So SSA started me on regular SS and then during 2014 I went thru process of applying for the disability portion. While at the initial SSA meeting I explained that I had been on unemployment income for 2013 and SSA said that SSDI backdates for 18 months(to be eligible for Medicare/Medicaid) but not to worry. In January 2015, I received letter from SSDI that my disability had been approved for all of 2013 and that I would receive funds for 2013 and the additional portion of funds owed to me for for 2014 that were due while I was on early SSI. I talked with SSA about the appearance of double dipping (SSI & UI for 2013) on two different occasions and was told you don't owe UI back to the state and yes you do owe. I went to IRS and said not in their balywick only taxes are there thing. Have read alot about this issue and can't find any clarity. Social security doesn't want the money back, even called the state UI and they want to investigate the situation like I am trying to defraud them but they do not know the answer to a straight forward question, yes you do or no you don't. On the surface it looks like double dipping but because they were two separate events and not overlapping until after the fact there does not seem to be a clear cut answer. Just trying not get bit in the butt many years down the road.

Hi Bruce, Wow, this must be so frustrating for you! It's very clear that you've done all you could by contacting the SSA multiple times to try to get an answer for the question. I'm sorry they have given you different answers both times. But from what you've described, I do not believe you will owe any back pay. The SSA can approve people who became disabled all the way back to their date of disability, which can include time that they were working and making too much income. It would make sense that unemployment benefits would fall into a similar category. Again, I really am not 100% sure because we are not affiliated with the SSA. I think that because there is no clear-cut answer and that you have been fully honest with the SSA, I would not worry too much about it. I'm sorry that I can't be more help, Bruce! Hopefully everything will work itself out, but there is not much more that you can do now, as you've already exhausted your options.

You somewhat answered my question. Seeing as how long disability to get. Where are there ways to support yourself on a daily/monthly basis? Like your sight!!!

Hi David, You are able to apply to state programs that can assist you in other ways, such as SNAP. A handful of states have their own short-term disability benefits for applicants who are waiting for their disability decision. Your other options are to take some kind of low-stress part-time job. So long as you make less than $1090 a month if you applied for SSDI benefits, or less than $730 a month if you applied for SSI benefits, you be able to work and receive social security benefits.

I find it absolutely ridiculous that we all have to jump though such hurdles, live in squalor and become homeless because of the process it takes to get SSDI. Our senators and congressmen do nothing and get paid millions- yet they want to take away every dime from people who truly cannot work and are deathly ill. SHAME ON THEM. Canada treats their citizens with dignity and respect and would never make their citizens suffer and die from their illness while they await a decision on such matters. SHAME ON YOU CONGRESS !!

I have suffered with depression and anxiety for over 25 years. I am 58 years old and had to leave 2 jobs in the past 5 years because I could not work. I am on several medications for that as well as medication for Shingles, and Stomach disorder. I have been on medications my entire life. I can't be around or work in a corporate environment any longer. This FAST PACED ENVIRONMENT"" posted on jobs make me crazy. My last job I was singled out and abused by my supervisor for over 1 1/2 years after writing a 4 page manifesto and giving it to human resources. No attorney would take my case for abuse in the work place. To hard for them, they want easy cases. I have been out of work, with no income since May of 2014, beside the 6 months of State Disability. I was hospitalized in 2006 and underwent Electric Shock Therapy to just get me out of bed. But I still denied SSD and in the 3rd appeal process. So no income since December 2014. Had to get a line of credit from my bank and have no help from the State of NJ because they do not have Section 8 help any longer, or that's what I was told. How do you live? I wrote the White House and they forwarded the letter to Maryland SSD and they sent me a letter stating I can do some type of work. I left a job bringing home $700.00 clear a week, Why would I want to leave and collect SSD if I was not sick???????? If you are a convicted felon just out of prison you get SSD. I know someone who is collecting and now going to school. OH, so that's it, rob a bank, do jail time, and then you can collect SSD, or be from another country.... So yea, all of us are just going to become homeless and dry up and die. They don't care. I am a sick woman who has tried for years to get well, I worked since I was 16 years old. 10 years at one job, they went bankrupt. 7 years at another, they relocated. Before that, I was a waitress and bartender for many years. Had to work early as my father had died and we had to work to keep the house. So....all that suffering and now may not have an apartment to live in soon. Maybe I should cross the border?

Hi Elaine,
I am so sorry to hear about your tough situation. Have you considered restarting the application entirely instead of appealing? Some applicants have more success with that instead of appealing. Additionally, have you contacted an attorney about getting disability benefits, not for workplace abuse? A disability attorney could really help you get your benefits.

If you apply for disability how do you live until it comes are there any programs out there to help you in any way

Hi Herbert,
I would recommend looking into some state-run programs. This is an issue many people have, and it's a real shame the SSA doesn't have any kind of assistance for people who are sick and cannot work but are waiting for their benefits.

This system is so backwards. I know people who are on full disability....Barely worked any of their life & in their spare time, they were in prison! Not saying my illnesses are any more or any less important than others, but it all stops my life....As most of you probably feel the same way. To have to wait months & months for a decision is crazy. We all know they deny you off the bat, less paperwork for them I guess? I have actually read an article that said do not take no for an answer....So ok...Next step....Obtain representation! How am I suppose to do that? Lawyers charge an arm & a leg & I have never met a lawyer that was like ya I represent of charge! YA RIGHT! So it's just a sit & wait situation. I had applied for disability, was told I didn't make enough money...I called & told them, they might want to recheck that. Then in that process, I unexpectedly lost my job....So what do you do when you are in the waiting game...I filed for unemployment. Well, don't you know, it has been almost 7 weeks waiting on my unemployment, because I filed for disability. I shouldn't be working, but no one pays your bills for you, so I have no choice but to work & suffer through the pain everyday of my life. So instead of giving me what I earned, your holding it against me because I have ailments that debilitate my life. This country is in trouble! Has been....Will be! I don't see anyone coming to our rescue. I guess...The rich just get richer & the middle class doesn't exist & everyone just have to pray nothing bad happens to them.

Hi Valerie,
SSD attorneys will represent people "on contingency," which means that they are free unless you win. If you do win, they take 25% of your back pay. So NOTHING is paid out of pocket. You would not have received any back pay if you did not win in the first place.

I truly did not know that collecting unemployment benefits had an negative impact on me filing my disability claim; if I had I would have applied for unemployment benefits. I am not a criminal or trying to cheat the government concerning this money. All the while that I had been receiving the Social Security reports while I was working, I thought that they were to inform me about the money that had been taking from me was for the time came that I was unable to work if a permanent sickness or injury happened to me. I am not able to work because my sickness and problems with that sickness is why I am not able to get work, part time or otherwise. If the issue is about paying back the unemployment money, then take it form disability benefits; trust me I do not have a problem with that. I know and have seen the news reports about people who have been reported as frauds for wrongfully getting Social Security money when their health problems had been found not be permanent or found under the list of health problems that Social Security Administration consider has permanent disability. I say this to let it be known, that I am not a criminal nor am I trying to become one, my impute in my Social Security case is genuine, and I hope the SSA will understand that, so that I can get my disability benefits. I don't want it to be a financial burden for my family members when it comes time for me to leave this world, and I really need to get that handled as well as getting some type of health insurance when I have to go the hospital for emergency care!

I have been on unemployment for about 6 months and had surgery on my hand can I let unemployment go and apply for state disability. I work with computers and was on limited duties when I was later off

Hi there,
Yes, if you are not expected to be able to type again and are unqualified for any other job, I would recommend getting off unemployment and beginning your application for SSDI benefits.

I had a Social Security person tell me to file for unemployment. Because they are two hands that don't talk to each other. I was on disability for a year. But you can't apply for social security disability till after a year on SDI makes no sense. Now there is no financial aid for me as i wait for a decision not really understanding why the wind is used by doctors finding but instead send me to a doctor on a Sunday who was in a rush didn't really examine me but with his eyes and a few questions the whole exam took about 10 minutes. So now I wait for a decision with no financial aid.

Hi Bo,
That's pretty strange. I usually recommend that most people do NOT file for unemployment, because that could jeopardize their benefits.