Receiving unemployment income benefits while your Social Security disability case is still pending can be problematic.
In order to receive unemployment income benefits, you are required to hold yourself out as ready, willing, and able to work and you have to certify that you are actively looking for work. However, the Social Security Administration requires you to show you are not capable of substantial gainful activity. This includes not only your past work (generally, work you’ve done in the last 15 years) but other less physically and mentally demanding work.
When you file for both unemployment income benefits and Social Security disability benefits, you are saying that you are able to work but can’t find a job and that you are too disabled to work at the same time. In the eyes of many administrative law judges, this represents a conflict in your statements, and thus a “smoking gun” to your lack of credibility, which can be used to deny your case.
Official Policy of the Social Security Administration
SSA’s policy is this: receipt of unemployment income benefits does not necessarily bar social security disability benefits, but the SSA does consider it when deciding whether you are disabled or not. Former Chief Administrative Law Judge Frank A. Cristaudo issued two “policy” statements on November 15, 2006 and August 9, 2010 in which he stated the following:
“Receipt of unemployment benefits does not preclude the receipt of Social Security disability benefits. The receipt of unemployment benefits is only one of many factors that must be considered in determining whether the claimant is disabled. See 20 CFR 404.1512(b) and 416.912(b).”
Many social security claimants who receive unemployment income benefits explain they have no choice but to at least try and look for work if this is the only means by which they can maintain a place to live and put food on their table. Some judges sympathize with this plight and some don’t.
What if You Are Receiving Unemployment Benefits
The bottom line is this: Receiving unemployment income benefits may or may not affect the outcome of your Social Security disability case.
Every case is different. Every judge is different.
That is why it is so important for you to sit down with your attorney and discuss the facts particular to your case. In our office, we conduct in-person interviews of about an hour to two hours long. We take the time necessary to listen to you and explain your legal rights so that the presiding administrative law judge has all the facts that are relevant to your case.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.