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Disabled and collecting unemployment

A very common question many of my disability client’s have asked is whether they are eligible to apply and receive unemployment benefits while await a disability decision.  It is understandable for a person laid off or fired from their employment to seek out any available resource for funds during the wait for SSA approval.  The real problem is the mixed message it sends to SSA.  You must walk a delicate line and fully explain to SSA the reasoning.

When you apply for Unemployment benefits, you certify that you are willing and able to work if a job was offered to you.  In the very first hearing I ever attended, the claimant made a great case for why he was eligible for both unemployment and Social Security Disability.  This claimant stated that he was willing and able to work, IF he could find employment that he could perform despite his disability.

In my practice, I have found that this argument is most successful with claimants over the age of 50.  This is due to SSA rules in which they can find someone over the age of 50 disabled without having to rule out ALL work.    With those under 50, the argument, in my experience, is less successful in front of a Judge.  For claimants under the age of 50, the argument that they are continuing to look for, thus willing, and trying to find a job they are able to do, becomes more compelling if the claimant has taken jobs and had to leave those jobs because of the disability.

One other note about employment and disability benefits.  Simply because you are working may not mean your ineligible for disability benefits.  If your making less than SGA (substantial gainful activity), which is currently sent to raise to $1,010/month in 2012, you can remain eligible for some benefits.  Further, if you are working at a protected job, you can remain eligible for some benefits.

If you are applying for Social Security disability benefits and wish to also apply for Unemployment benefits, discuss this with your attorney.  While the choice is ultimately yours, your attorney needs to be aware to properly prepare your response for SSA