One of the most commonly asked questions among those who are out of work and disabled is whether or not they can receive both unemployment benefits and Social Security disability benefits. While there is not a specific regulation with the Social Security Administration (SSA) regarding receiving unemployment benefits while applying for Social Security disability benefits, it’s generally not a good idea.
Social Security disability benefits are overseen by the SSA, a department of the federal government. Unemployment benefits, while they are mandated by federal law, are overseen by state governments. The laws regarding unemployment benefits and who can receive them vary from state to state.
Most states require a person to be available for full time work and capable of performing full time work in order to qualify for unemployment benefits. Typically, before you can be approved for unemployment benefits, you will need to attest that you are capable of working full time.
Social Security disability benefits, on the other hand, require you to make a case that you are incapable of continuing to work full time because of a medically verifiable disabling condition. So, in order to apply for Social Security disability benefits while you are currently receiving unemployment benefits, you will need to attest to a federal agency that you are incapable of working at gainful employment while at the same time attesting to your state’s unemployment agency that you are ready, willing, and able to take on full time employment and that you are actively seeking employment.
The problem becomes readily apparent to most. Obviously, you can’t be ready, willing, and able to accept full time work and completely unable to perform any work for which you are qualified due to a disability at the same time. Making conflicting claims like this is unlikely to gain you disability benefits. If anything, you might lose your unemployment benefits and face legal trouble and the possibility of having to reimburse the government what it has paid you.
Both federal and state governments take a hard line stance on fraud. If you are found to have been intentionally fraudulent in statements you have made to the SSA or your state’s unemployment agency, you could end up doing hard time. No benefits are worth that.
Of course, the exact qualifications for unemployment benefits do vary from state to state, and there are rare circumstances under which it may be all right to go ahead and apply for Social Security disability benefits even though you are collecting unemployment benefits. Such situations are rare, and should not be pursued without the advice and help of a Social Security disability lawyer.
In many cases, it isn’t even beneficial to collect unemployment benefits and Social Security disability benefits. If you qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you will only be gaining one benefit to lose another. This is because SSI payments are reduced based on the amount of other income you have.
Under no circumstances should you try to hide the fact that you are applying for both. That would only lead to possible fraud charges. If you are awarded Social Security disability benefits while you are collecting unemployment, you are likely to lose your ability to collect unemployment, as you will no longer be able to claim that you are capable of working full time to your state unemployment agency. Your disability benefits won’t be affected by the unemployment benefits, however, with the possible exception of reduced SSI payments.