I Filed for Unemployment- Am I Barred from Receiving Social Security Disability Benefits?

Social Security disability benefits provide a stable income for people who have to stop working due to physical or mental ailments. But the process of getting approved for disability is notoriously slow, often lasting years and requiring multiple appeals. As such, individuals who can no longer work due to disability commonly resort to a quicker source of benefits: unemployment.

The choice to apply for unemployment benefits before or during the Social Security disability application process seems logical. After all, unemployment is for people who aren’t working. Unfortunately, applying for and receiving unemployment benefits can negatively impact your disability application further down the line.


Disability and unemployment- the distinction

The reason that unemployment benefits can hurt your Social Security disability case stems from the differences between one form of assistance and the other. While disability benefits help those who cannot work, unemployment benefits are meant for people who can work, but are unable to find a job. In fact, although unemployment applications vary from state to state, most require the applicant to swear that they are “ready, willing and able” to work in order to receive benefits.

Understanding this distinction makes it clear why collecting unemployment looks bad in a disability case. A disability applicant’s claim that they cannot work is directly contradicted if their unemployment application states they are willing and able to work. Because Social Security examiners and judges receive earnings reports (including unemployment income) directly, there is no way around the negative impact those earnings would have on your disability case.


Getting approved for disability despite receiving unemployment benefits

Despite this negative impact, many disabled people still file for unemployment, either not knowing the effect it will have on their disability case or because they need the money urgently. The good news is that receiving unemployment is not a complete bar to receiving Social Security disability benefits.

Indeed, the Social Security Administration has officially stated that receiving unemployment benefits does not automatically disqualify someone from getting on disability. However, disability examiners and judges do consider unemployment earnings when making their decisions. Therefore, winning your disability case despite having unemployment earnings may require some strategic planning.

If you are applying for disability while on unemployment or you are weighing which benefit to apply for, it is always helpful to speak with an attorney who is experienced in the area.


To find out how our Social Security disability lawyers can help you, please contact our office for a consultation.

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