The question of applying for Social Security Disability Benefits while on or applying for State Unemployment Benefits comes up more often these days. Some individuals might think this would be a good option for them, after all, you are unemployed, have a disability that will impact your life for 12 months and/or lead to death, need to cover bills, haven’t been successful yet in finding a job, and it can take a long time for your Social Security Disability benefits to get approved. Shouldn’t there be an easy answer?
No, not exactly. Here is how it works. When applying for Social Security Disability benefits you are signing legal documents stating that you cannot work and when drawing state unemployment benefits you are testifying that you are actively seeking employment and that you are physically able to perform the duties of a job. End of issue? Maybe not.
Steps to take:
Contact the Social Security Administration to determine the status of your application. If you have filed an initial claim, you have an average wait of about four months from your application date for a decision. If you have been denied, the wait can extend to two years for appeals and for a hearing. Work with your attorney if you have a representative helping you with the claim, and advise him/her that you may actively seek unemployment benefits.
When deciding to apply for unemployment benefits: Decide whether you are willing to risk receiving disability benefits for the chance to return to the work force. Social Security examiners and judges don’t look favorably on an unemployment application, although strictly speaking, the rules permit collecting both disability and unemployment. If you are physically capable of working, your best course is to seek work, since Social Security provides a very minimal monthly benefit (roughly equal to what your retirement benefit would be). Most jobs, even part-time, will put more money in your pocket.
If you’ve decided to apply for Unemployment Insurance benefits, go ahead and fill out the unemployment benefit application. It will require you to pledge that you are actively seeking employment. The form will also ask if you are currently receiving Social Security benefits, or if you are applying for them. Be honest — the Unemployment Insurance staff will work with Social Security sooner or later. If you are found to be drawing disability and unemployment, one or both of the agencies may make an adjustment in the amount you receive.
Get the application decision from the Unemployment Insurance staff. If you are turned down, you still have an active Social Security application. If you are accepted inform your attorney, if you have one, and prepare to withdraw your Social Security disability claim; you can reapply at a later date if it is necessary. If you are already drawing Social Security Disability and somehow the Unemployment Insurance office approves you to receive UI benefits, inform Social Security that you are now actively seeking work. In some cases, Disability applications will be suspended. If you find yourself physically unable to perform the duties of any job you manage to get, Social Security will look favorably on any future Disability application — at least you tried to work.
Claudia Magallan is the Disability Navigator for Workforce Solutions Workforce Solutions- Gulf Coast ensuring that customers with disabilities utilize all the services offered by Workforce Solutions. She has over six years of experience building relationships in the Houston Community and working with job seekers with barriers to employment.
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