Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance can be a lengthy process. This can prompt claimants to wonder: is it possible to claim unemployment benefits at the same time? This certainly helps out financially whilst waiting for the review of your SSD application. The simple answer is ‘yes’, as unemployment is a state benefit that anyone out of work can apply for. The problem with applying for both SSD and unemployment is this: in order to claim unemployment benefits, you have to be actively looking for work. Conversely, to claim SSD, you or your doctor has to prove that you are unable to work. These two criteria seem mutually exclusive. But are there ways around this?
The reason many people opt to apply for unemployment benefits when they are out of work is that they are likely to receive them quicker than SSD. Don’t be concerned that receiving unemployment affects the amount SSD might pay you. The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t class unemployment benefit as earnings, so it doesn’t have any financial bearing upon your SSD application or eventual pay-out.
However, there is a conflict of interest between the two benefits. By claiming unemployment, you are stating that you are fit to work, ready to work and actively looking for work. Unemployment benefits are for people who are either out of work or on greatly reduced hours and looking to get back to work or increase their hours. When you apply for SSD, you are stating that you cannot work full time, due to a medical condition or injury that will exist (or has existed) continuously for 12 months or more.
The definition of disability in the eyes of the SSA is a condition that prevents the claimant from performing substantial gainful activity (SGA). This means employment that earns over a certain amount of money. This amount changes yearly. In 2018, a blind SSD applicant would have to be incapable of earning over $1970 a month, and a non-blind applicant can’t be capable of earning over $1180.
If you always worked part-time or were always under the SGA threshold, there’s a chance the SSA can decline the disability benefit. This is because they can claim that the disability has not had any significant impact on your ability to work. However, if you previously worked a 40-hour week and are now looking for 16 hours a week or less due to injury or illness, the SSA considers this as the disability having a substantial negative impact on your work life.
So, the answer is yes, you can claim both unemployment and disability if you are able to fulfill the eligibility criteria for both benefits. Some states reduce the unemployment benefit based on the value of the SSD payment. Whether or not you decide to apply for unemployment benefits as well as SSD, it’s always best to get your SSD claim in as quickly as possible. Payments are often backdated to the point of filing a claim, so the faster you apply, the more chance of the SSA paying you arrears right from the day you were unable to work.