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How Do Unemployment Benefits Affect Your Social Security Disability Claim?

Many people wonder if they can collect unemployment benefits while applying for Social Security Disability. After all, it can take months or even years for the Social Security Administration to approve your claim for Social Security Disability benefits. Shouldn't you be able to collect unemployment benefits while you wait? You are, after all, unemployed.

The fact of the matter is that the waters become very murky when it comes to applying for Social Security Disability while receiving unemployment benefits. After all, to qualify for unemployment benefits you have to be seeking work. To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you are stating that you are unable to work. Does that mean that you cannot collect unemployment benefits while applying for Social Security Disability? Not necessarily.

When It Makes Sense to Apply for Disability and Unemployment

If you feel that you may be able to work or you may be able to hold down a part-time job that generates less than $1,000 per month in income, you may want to apply for both unemployment and Social Security Disability benefits. In doing so, you are not stating that you are able to hold down a full time job but you are also not stating that you are unwilling to seek employment. You are merely stating that your disability may prevent you from working full time and obtaining substantial gainful employment and that you need unemployment benefits to compensate for your lack of employment while you seek out job alternatives.

With that being said, however, it is important to understand that some states require you to be willing to seek out full-time work in order to receive unemployment benefits. If you are applying for Social Security Disability you are stating that you are unable to perform full-time work. If unemployment finds out that you were unable to work because of a disability and you were receiving unemployment benefits, you may be responsible for paying all of those benefits back and you may even be faced with charges of disability fraud.

The SSI Factor

Even if you can receive unemployment benefits while looking for part-time work, you need to look into how unemployment benefits will affect your SSI application. While there are no income limits set on individuals who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), there are income limits for those who wish to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If you qualify for unemployment benefits and begin receiving monthly payments, those payments might affect your eligibility for the SSI disability program. If your unemployment checks cause you to exceed the monthly SSI income limits, you will be denied SSI benefits because of this.

Collecting Unemployment When Receiving Disability

There are some situations in which a person who is already receiving Social Security Disability may be eligible for unemployment benefits. The Social Security Administration allows a person to attempt re-entry into the workforce. People who receive Social Security Disability benefits are entitled to a nine-month “trial work” period in which they can earn an income of more than $1,000 per month without losing their Social Security Disability benefits. If you do find a job and work for six months before being laid off, you are still entitled to your Social Security Disability benefits and you may now also qualify for unemployment benefits as well.

Honesty is Key

If you feel that you are entitled to unemployment compensation while receiving Social Security Disability benefits, your best bet is to evaluate whether or not you are able to work, to what extent you can work and the individual unemployment laws of your state.

If you can work part time and your state allows you to file for unemployment while seeking part time work, then you may indeed be able to receive unemployment and Social Security Disability at the same time. If, however, you live in a state where you are required to seek full-time work while receiving unemployment benefits then you should not apply for unemployment while applying for Social Security Disability as your two applications will directly contradict one another – one application will be saying that you can and are willing and able to work full time and the other is saying that you cannot.

Whatever you do, do not try to hide the fact that you are applying for both unemployment and Social Security Disability benefits. State agencies can, and often do, communicate with one another. If you are entitled to both benefits you should have no trouble getting them. If, however, you are not entitled to one of these benefits you should avoid applying for both disability and unemployment and stick with the benefit that is truly due to you.


With regards to unemployment, my state just requires you to be looking for a minimum of 20 hours per week. So in that instance, does it appear to be okay to be on SSDI and also receive unemployment since I could work 20 hours per week at minimum wage while on SSDI. As while on SSDI, you are allowed to work as long as you earn under a certain amount per month.