Social Security Disability and Unemployment

Woman sitting next to a box of her office belongings

Due to the recent COVID-19 Pandemic, we have been asked repeatedly about the interplay between Unemployment Benefits and Social Security Disability Benefits. This is more important than ever for individuals who have been laid off (or simply let go) of jobs, but who do not think they can return to work in the same or different fields, even when the Pandemic subsides.

Traditionally, Social Security disability (and Supplemental Security Income) and unemployment benefits are mutually exclusive because they serve different sets of workers. Unemployment benefits are typically for people who are “ready, willing and able” to work but unable to find a job.

On the other hand, Social Security disability benefits are for people who are unable to work. Claiming both disability and unemployment benefits at the same time is unusual, but it is possible in some cases. However, if someone applies for Social Security Disability benefits while collecting unemployment, this can have a negative impact on an SSDI claim.

The conflict between these two types of benefits lies in the eligibility criteria for each, which is explained in greater detail below.

Eligibility Criteria: Social Security Disability and Unemployment Benefits

There is no hard and fast rule which requires denial of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims by those already receiving unemployment benefits. But there is an obvious tension between the two types of benefits:

  • Unemployment: Must be ready, willing and able to work on a full-time basis
  • Disability: Must be unable to work a full-time job ("substantial gainful activity") for 12 months because of a disabling medical condition. If a person is expected to be unable to work for 12 months, this qualifies as well.

A 1999 U.S. Supreme Court case held that Social Security disability claims "did not inherently conflict" with other types of benefits. But the reality is that if an administrative law judge sees that a claimant has admitted he was “ready, willing and able to work,” then this is not consistent with a claim for disability benefits.

Can You Collect Unemployment and Social Security in Michigan?

Individuals receiving both unemployment insurance and SSDI face possible repercussions for double dipping. It is possible for an individual to erroneously receive unemployment insurance despite being ineligible for unemployment due to his ability to qualify for SSDI. In some states, an individual who erroneously receives unemployment insurance must pay back the state.

This can occur while a recipient of unemployment insurance awaits a decision on his application for disability insurance. In applying for disability insurance, new circumstances may disqualify the recipient for unemployment insurance. Withholding information from a state employment insurance office can constitute fraud, potentially resulting in criminal prosecution as well as a hefty fine.

Make Sure You Know Your Rights: Get an Experienced Disability Lawyer Today

If you have additional questions about disability and unemployment, you may benefit from a consultation with a Social Security Disability Insurance lawyer. We are able to give sound advice and representation to ensure you are in the best position possible to win your case.

A Grand Rapids and Muskegon Disability lawyer can assist you in contacting and meeting with your medical providers to obtain statements regarding your physical capabilities. Having these statements in your file, and having the statements worded properly, is extremely important for proving your case and winning benefits.

The Social Security lawyers and Nolan & Shafer work hard to gather all your evidence and present it in a way that puts you in the best position possible to win your case.

Whether it is filing your application for you, or presenting your case to an Administrative Law Judge, we help you every step of the way.

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