Can I Apply for Unemployment and Disability Benefits?

Submitted by John on Fri, 03/04/2011 - 10:18

If you are eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, they are normally granted under the assumption that you are not able to engage in substantial gainful activity. However, in order to apply for unemployment, you must be actively looking for work; meaning that you believe you are able to work. On the surface, this may appear to be a contradiction. However, there are some people who may be able to apply for both Unemployment and Social Security Disability benefits at the same time. The majority of the decision depends on substantial gainful activity levels and other factors.

What Is Substantial Gainful Activity?

The Social Security Administration defines Substantial Gainful Activity as a certain amount of monthly income. The amount varies from year to year in accordance with the national average wage index.

It is different for blind individuals who receive Social Security Disability, and those who are not categorized as statutorily blind. As of January 2020, the Social Security Administration listed SGA for blind individuals as $2,110 USD. For non-blind individuals, it is $1,260 income per month.

In general, if an individual’s gross monthly work income is at or above the listed SGA amount, that income could prevent that person from receiving any SSD benefits. But if a person is able to make a small income, under the listed SGA value, then it is possible they could be awarded Social Security Disability benefits.

Although there are general guidelines for SGA amounts, there are some cases where hopeful beneficiaries may not make the minimum listed amount, yet are ineligible for Social Security Disability benefits. If you are self-employed or if you have substantial control over the amount of money you are able to earn, then you may be denied Social Security Disability benefits.

Can I Apply for Unemployment and Disability Benefits?

Social Security Disability Insurance Beneficiaries And Work: Can I Apply For Social Security Disability?

If you are not working at all, and you currently receive unemployment benefits, then you may apply for Social Security Disability. Unfortunately, your application could be turned down if you are currently seeking any type of work that a disabled person would technically not be able to do. Every Social Security Disability application is reviewed on its own merit.

If you are applying for sedentary work and you have previously been employed in a non-sedentary capacity, then that may very well be acceptable to both the Social Security Administration and Unemployment officials. For instance, if you are fifty years old or older, and have not done sedentary work for the last fifteen years, then you could be eligible for both Unemployment and Social Security Disability. It is important to understand Social Security’s disability rules to determine whether your own case would be found inconsistent with regulations.

Understanding Social Security’s Disability Rules: Determining Disability

Although every American worker pays into Social Security, there are very specific guidelines that must be met in order for Social Security Disability benefits to be awarded. Before you can begin to collect disability payments, the Social Security Administration will need specific information.

First, officials will review your application for SSD to be certain that you have been part of the workforce long enough to be eligible for Social Security Disability. Once they have determined that you have spent enough time working to qualify, they will have your state’s Disability Determination Services office complete the required review of medical evidence to determine whether you qualify.

Here are some important questions to consider:

  • Are You Earning Any Money? If you are working and making more than the annually listed amount of SGA earnings each month, Social Security will generally not consider you to be disabled. If you think your case may be an exception, it is best to proceed with an application.
  • Is Your Medical Condition Considered Severe? If you cannot do basic functions like standing, sitting, walking, and remembering; and have not been able to perform these functions for at least a year, then your condition is most likely going to be determined to be “severe” by the state Disability Determination Services office. If your own doctor is not able to provide enough information about your condition, SSA will have you examined further.
  • Does Your Medical Condition Meet Criteria on the List of Impairments? There are some medical conditions that are considered to be severe enough that they automatically qualify those who suffer from them for disability. Even if your personal condition is not listed, it may be determined to be as severe as those conditions listed.
  • Can You Do The Kind Of Work You Did Before? If you have not been determined to be disabled by merit of the severity of your physical condition, the state Disability Determination Services office will attempt to determine whether you are able to do the same type of work you did prior to the onset of your medical condition.
  • Could You Perform Another Type of Work? If you cannot perform the same work functions you did in the past, then the Disability Determination office will evaluate whether you could switch to another type of work. They will evaluate your disability or medical condition and consider your past work experience as well as any skills you may have, along with your age and level of education to determine whether you could be gainfully employed in a field other than your own. If you are determined to be fit for another type of work, then you might not qualify for Social Security Disability.

How Collecting Unemployment May Affect Your Social Security Disability Application

Since the Social Security Disability determination process can be lengthy, many individuals do collect unemployment while waiting for their SSD application to be processed. In many cases, decisions can take months or even years to come in.

If you decide to do this, then you could end up receiving a judgment in favor of Social Security Disability benefits only from the time your unemployment benefits end. However, some judges will award Social Security Disability payments without factoring in unemployment benefits.

Applying for Unemployment and Social Security Disability: Your Best Chance at Success

Retaining a Social Security Disability Attorney or Advocate is your best chance of successfully navigating the rules, regulations and veritable sea of paperwork involved in placing claims for unemployment and Social Security Disability. Most legal services offer a complimentary evaluation to determine whether you have a good case. The decision to seek assistance from legal professionals can help you receive all the benefits you are entitled to.