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Social Security and Unemployment Benefits

In times of economic hardship, many Americans find they need financial assistance to cover their expenses. While applying for and receiving unemployment benefits may provide the help you’re looking for, they may hurt your chances of qualifying for disability benefits through Social Security. While it is technically possible to collect both, doing so is often a practical impossibility.

As an initial matter, unemployment benefits do not count as earnings for Social Security Administration’s (SSA) purposes and, therefore, will not reduce your retirement benefits or your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Conversely, your Social Security benefits may reduce the amount of unemployment benefits to which you may be entitled.

If you are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, however, the amount that you receive in unemployment benefits will likely reduce the amount of SSI benefits you can receive every month and might disqualify you from receiving them entirely. That is because the SSI program has strict income and asset limits you must fall under to qualify.

The real challenge with trying to collect both disability and unemployment benefits simultaneously is that you must make seemingly contradictory claims to qualify for each. If you are trying to get unemployment benefits, you have to be actively looking for work, but if you are trying to get disability benefits, you are claiming that you suffer from a condition that makes it impossible for you to work. The SSA claims examiners evaluating your claim for disability benefits will look closely at your application for unemployment benefits, and the burden will be on you to explain why the two applications do not conflict.

Another challenge is the fact that unemployment benefits programs are run by the individual states, so each state may have different criteria for how to qualify that may be at odds with SSA’s criteria for disability benefits.

To maximize your benefits, check your state’s unemployment office before applying. If you still think that simultaneously collecting unemployment and disability benefits is what you need, contact a trusted Social Security disability attorney who can go over all of the options and potential problems you may run into.