A study recently conducted by the Obama administration reflected that many unemployed Americans apply for Social Security disability benefits around the time that their unemployment benefits are set to expire. These findings were based on interviews with a number of unemployed workers, and provide some insight into both the struggles that unemployed, low-income Americans face, as well as the growing burden placed on the Social Security Administration (SSA), which administers the Social Security disability programs.
The large majority of disabled workers who apply for Social Security disability have their applications denied. Overall, around 70% of applicants receive a denial at upon their initial application, and only approximately 10% have that decision reversed at the first level of the appeals process. However, those who are applying for Social Security Disability and have recently received unemployment benefits face additional struggles in being approved for benefits.
In order to be approved for Social Security disability benefits, you’ll need to prove that you’re unable to work in any job, for at least a year, due to illness or injury. If benefits are awarded, they’re paid beginning with a disability “established onset date,” which is usually around the time the applicant stopped working due to their disability. In many cases, the disabled worker is eligible to receive retroactive benefit payments.
However, to receive unemployment benefits, unemployed workers must state that they are willing and able to work. Thus, if you lose your job and receive unemployment benefits for a year, and then apply for disability benefits when the unemployment payments end, it would be very difficult to prove that your disability began when you stopped working, as this would contradict the fact that you received unemployment payments, during which you were available to work.
It may be possible to get approved for Social Security disability after receiving unemployment compensation, with an established disability onset date of after the unemployment benefits ended. However, this would likely eliminate the payment of any retroactive payments, and delay the date the disability recipient is eligible for Medicare (after two years of receiving Social Security disability payments.) Additionally, in some cases, the fact that a Social Security applicant stopped working due to a layoff or similar reason, and not solely because of their disability, can also reflect negatively upon their claim.
However, there is no outright rule against being eligible for disability benefits for a period of time during which unemployment benefits were received. If you are pursuing a Social Security disability claim and have recently received unemployment compensation, it’s a very good idea to contact a disability attorney who has experience with the Social Security disability claims process. Unique situations like this can be hard for those unfamiliar with the rules, procedures, and regulations related to this process to handle successfully on their own.