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Can I Collect Social Security Disability and Unemployment Benefits at the Same Time?


If a person is disabled, he or she may consider applying for Social Security disability benefits to help with the bills if their disability prevents them from working. An unemployed person may apply for unemployment benefits to help with the bills during the period of unemployment. Can a disabled person apply for benefits under both programs? Because of the requirements and criteria qualifying a person for benefits under both programs, it may be difficult to get approved for both programs.

Unemployment Benefits

In order to receive unemployment benefits, a person has to meet eligibility requirements set by their particular state, modeled after federal guidelines. One key requirement is that the person was previously employed, and is unemployed at the time of the application through no fault of his or her own. The amount of benefits and the length of time the benefits will continue are also determined by state guidelines. These benefits are usually temporary. In most states, there is a requirement that those receiving unemployment benefits should continue to seek employment.

Social Security Disability Benefits

When applying for Social Security disability benefits, a person is stating that they have a disability that keeps them from working. In addition, the person essentially certifies that the disability is chronic, and will keep him or her from working for the next 12 months from his or her application, or until death. Social Security disability benefits are administered by the Social Security Administration.

The problem with applying for both programs is that you are claiming that you can work, as per unemployment benefit requirements; and, that you cannot work, as per Social Security disability requirements. While it is not illegal to make both claims hoping for favorable outcomes with both applications, it can be a tricky proposition and you may not be successful on either claim. Social Security disability applications are especially hard to get approved; having a pending unemployment benefits claim or receiving unemployment as you apply for disability benefits may further complicate your application. In addition, if your case has to be reviewed by an administrative judge, he can consider your simultaneous application for both programs in assessing your credibility.

If you are approved for Social Security disability benefits and are receiving unemployment benefits, you have to inform your state’s Department of Labor Unemployment Compensation Service. You may risk losing your unemployment benefits, and in some states, if you do qualify to receive payments under both programs, the amount of unemployment benefits you receive can be offset by the amount of Social Security benefits received. However, if you do not report it and it is later discovered by the state’s Department of Labor Unemployment Compensation, you may, in some cases, be required to pay back the unemployment benefits you received concurrently with the disability payments.

If you are disabled but may be able to work part time, you may be able to concurrently apply for unemployment benefits with fewer problems. When considering making applications for benefits under both unemployment and Social Security disability, it is a good idea to talk to an attorney who can guide you and advise you on the possibility of success under either program.