This guide provides a general overview of unemployment and Social Security disability as it relates to receiving benefits under both programs.
Can I get both unemployment and Social Security disability benefits?
Yes, it is possible for you to receive both unemployment benefits and Social Security disability benefits (SSDI).
Unemployment and Social Security disability are two different programs with different rules
Both unemployment and SSDI benefits provide financial support to those who are not working, but the rules for these programs differ greatly. There is a contradiction in applying for and receiving both unemployment benefits and SSDI benefits. When you apply for unemployment benefits, you are stating that you lost your job through no fault of your own, that you are ABLE to work and are actively looking for work. When you apply for SSDI, you are stating that you are UNABLE to do any substantial gainful work.
Because of the length of time between applying for SSDI and getting a disability decision, and the uncertainty of unemployment extensions, you may decide in your particular circumstances to take a practical approach and file for SSDI while on unemployment.
One example is when a person who was laid off due to COVID-19 applies for and receives unemployment benefits. While receiving unemployment and actively looking for work, the person decides to apply for SSDI due to a worsened physical condition and then becomes approved for SSDI while still receiving unemployment benefits.
Unemployment provides payments for a temporary period while you search for another job. To be eligible for unemployment, you must:
• be a U.S. citizen or be legally authorized to work in the U.S.
• have worked long enough to establish a benefit account.
• have lost a job through no fault of their own.
• be able and available to work and actively seeking employment.
Unemployment benefits are taxable, and any other source of income a person receives while receiving unemployment benefits must be reported to the state unemployment agency.
In general, Social Security pays monthly SSDI benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more, or who have a condition expected to end in death.
To qualify for SSDI, you must have worked long enough in jobs covered by Social Security to be “insured”. In addition, you must have a severe physical or mental impairment(s) that have lasted or be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months, or are expected to result in death and those impairment(s) must prevent the person from doing any substantial gainful work activity.
Collecting Unemployment While Receiving Disability
There are some situations in which a person who is already receiving SSDI may be eligible for unemployment benefits since the Social Security Administration encourages people receiving SSDI to try to work and offers work incentives. Two important work incentives, are:
• Trial Work Period (TWP) – During the TWP, you can work and still keep your full monthly SSDI check. The TWP lasts for 9 months in a 60-month timeframe.
• Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) – After the TWP, there is an EPE during which you can receive your full SSDI check for any month on which you were not able to earn substantial gainful activity. The EPE lasts for up to a 36-month timeframe.
If under a work incentive you find a job and work for an amount of time to establish your eligibility for unemployment benefits before being laid off, you are still entitled to your SSDI benefits and you may now also qualify for unemployment benefits.
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