Can I collect unemployment benefits while filing for Disability?

Asked almost 3 years ago - Chattanooga, TN

I have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis since 2001. I currently work and have had my current job since Oct 2004 however the company seems to be in trouble and I fear a lay off or business closing may be coming soon. While I have this job, they are quite understanding of my condition and my limitations, even giving me a company laptop so I can work from home when I am sick and cannot come in. If this job goes away I do not foresee another company working with me as they have but I cannot afford no income while waiting on benefits to be awarded. What would you say is the best option for me to take if this happens?

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Jeremy Lyle Bordelon


    Contributor Level 15


    Lawyers agree

    Best Answer
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    Answered . I read the answers that Mr. Wayson and Mr. Farrell provided, and I agree with them (as usual, they provided good and accurate advice). From the perspective of someone who practices Social Security law in Chattanooga, specifically, I can say that unemployment claims are not a big issue for our ground of Social Security judges here in the Chattanooga hearing office. Some judges think it's a bigger deal than others, and some of ours will ask a few questions about it in their hearings, but I can't think of a single time that one of the Chattanooga judges has made it into a big issue in someone's case. If you do lose your job and you need to talk to someone about Social Security, I would be happy to talk to you. Good luck, and here's hoping you won't need to file a claim at all.

    Jeremy Bordelon is a licensed attorney in the State of Tennessee only, and is authorized to practice in all... more
  2. Brian S Wayson

    Contributor Level 19


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Yes, generally you can file for and collect unemployment benefits while applying for and awaiting Social Security disability benefits. The short answer is "yes, you can collect both types of benefits at the same time" in 45 states. Not so many years ago, a federal law required that states offset unemployment compensation benefits in part, or in full, for individuals receiving Social Security payments. A subsequent federal law then permitted states to decide on such "Social Security offsets" through legislation - and thank goodness they did.

    Today, only four states, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, and Utah,retain the "offset" rule. South Dakota has repealed the rule but not yet implemented the change. Colorado is considering a repeal of its offset. In these states, unemployment compensation benefits are reduced by 50 percent of your Social Security payment. This can reduce unemployment benefits to near zero for most workers.

    A second memo was issued on August 9, 2010 on how Social Security should treat applications for individuals receiving unemployment benefits. SSA's official position is that "it is often uncertain whether we will find a person who applies for unemployment benefits ultimately to be disabled under our rules, and our decision making process can be quite lengthy. Therefore, it is SSA’s position that individuals need not choose between applying for unemployment insurance and Social Security disability benefits."

    The agency certainly will ask questions about the "available for work" part of unemployment versus the "disabled and cannot work" aspect of SS disability, however the two are not mutually exclusive, they mean different things and many factors go into each program's analysis: such as part time vs. full time, prior relevant work vs. a new occupation, leaving a job due to medical reasons or for missing too much work, special accommodations for work vs. competitive full time employment, etc.

    Social Security states: "However, application for unemployment benefits is evidence that the ALJ must consider together with all of the medical and other evidence. Often, the underlying circumstances will be of greater relevance than the mere application for and receipt of the benefits. For instance, the fact that a person has, during his or her alleged period of disability, sought employment at jobs with physical demands in excess of the person’s alleged limitations would be a relevant factor that an ALl should take into account, particularly if the ALJ inquired about an explanation for this apparent inconsistency."


    (see also:

    Disclaimer Information on this site is provided by Brian Scott Wayson as general information, not legal advice,... more
  3. Clifford Michael Farrell

    Contributor Level 19


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . The short answer is maybe. There are facts we need to know. If you are under 50, the answer is it could be a problem to tell the State you are able to work and collect unemployment while you tell SSA you cannot work and are disabled. If you are over 50, and limited to essentially a part-time job, or at most a sit down job, then probably yes, because SSA policy says if you cannot do your old work and are limited to sit down or sedntary work and are over age 50, they consider you disabled. So you could then be able to say you can work - at a sedentary job - and collect unemployment while you fight your SS disability claim.

    This is a complex area in the Social Security area. I have provided a link to a legal guide addressing this issue that may be of some help.

    You may wish to talk to an attorney about this issue in more detail. You may contact your local city, county or state bar association to see if they have a lawyer referral program, or you may contact the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives (NOSSCR) for the name and email address or telephone number of attorneys in your area. Most attorneys who do any amount of Social Security work are members of NOSSCR and provide a free initial consultation. In any event, no attorney may charge a fee for work on a social security claim until it has been approved by Social Security. The fee limit is a maximum of 25% of past due or back due benefits you are owed, and many lawyers charge less than the full 25%, and the money is not paid until your claim has been approved.

    The telephone number for the lawyer referral service of NOSSCR is 1-800-431-2804. NOSSCR's website is

    Good luck to you!


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