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Unemployment Benefits and Social Security Disability Claims

  • Published: 2012-06-24 : Author: Katz, Friedman, Eagle, Eisenstein, Johnson & Bareck
  • Synopsis: It is not unusual for a disabled individual to apply and receive unemployment benefits while Social Security Disability is pending.

Main Document

Unemployment Benefits impact on a Social Security Disability Claim.

It is not unusual for a disabled individual to apply for and receive unemployment benefits while they have a Social Security Disability application pending. As to whether this is advisable is another matter entirely. Receipt of unemployment benefits with a pending application for disability benefits suggests an apparent inconsistency: a claim that an individual is able, available, and actively seeking work while concurrently claiming an inability to work as a result of disability.

While the Social Security Administration frowns upon applicants receiving unemployment benefits, it will not always prevent a claimant from being found disabled.

The law essentially provides that receipt of unemployment insurance benefits does not automatically preclude an individual from being found disabled and from receiving Social Security Disability benefits.

This situation was addressed by the Social Security Administration's Chief Administrative Law Judge Frank A. Cristaudo in his memorandum of November 16, 2006 and August 9, 2010. Chief Judge Cristaudo noted it is often uncertain whether the Social Security Administration will find a person disabled, and the decision making process and waiting for disability benefits is quite lengthy. A claimant should not be forced to choose between applying for unemployment insurance and Social Security Disability benefits. Specifically, that person should not be forced to forgo unemployment benefits while an uncertain Social Security Application is pending for several years. The Chief Judge stressed that receipt of unemployment benefits is only one of many factors that must be considered in determining disability.

The United States Supreme Court addressed a similar situation in the 1999 case of Cleveland v. Policy Management Systems Corp.

Justice Breyer, in evaluating a concurrent Americans with Disabilities Act claim along with an application for Social Security Disability benefits ruled that the application for Social Security Disability benefits would not prevent recovery under the ADA. The Court further noted that being found disabled by the Social Security Administration involves a five-step process with a number of factors considered. The Court also noted that the Social Security Administration can grant benefits to individuals who are not only able to work, but are working. From a legal standpoint, we never encourage our clients to pursue both unemployment and Social Security Disability benefits simultaneously. In our experience, the Administrative Law Judges find it inherently problematic. In a close case, receipt of unemployment benefits can be used as a factor to deny disability benefits.

If an individual must receive unemployment benefits to survive, which is an understandable situation, they should expect the judge to demand an explanation at the time of hearing. There are reasonable explanations for collecting UC and applying for SSD. This is an issue that requires advice from an experienced attorney. If you have questions regarding this issue or any issue involving social security disability benefits, please feel free to contact us: 1-800-444-1525 or 312-263-6330 or visit us on the web at We look forward to assisting you!

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