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Tucson Social Security Disability Blog

Can I Collect Unemployment While I Wait For Social Security Disability Benefits?

Posted by John Kuhnlein | Apr 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

Many people who leave work because they can no longer do it apply for both Social Security disability and unemployment benefits. This seems like a logical thing to do. It can also mean the difference between paying the rent and being homeless. But, as with so much else, this proposition is not as simple as it seems.

The Unavoidable Conflict

The problem with collecting unemployment benefits while also applying for Social Security disability comes down to one simple issue: to collect unemployment, you have to tell the state that you are ready, willing, and able to work.  This is a requirement almost everywhere for unemployment benefits. But, when you apply for Social Security disability benefits, you are claiming the opposite: that you are not able to work. 

It does not take long to see how this conflict is going to cause trouble. I have seen Social Security judges asking claimants in this situation if they were "lying to the state or lying to Social Security."  While that is an unfair question, it gives you an idea of how the judge is looking at the issue.

Too Many Layoffs

Social Security's official position on this matter is that collecting unemployment is simply one factor for determining if a claimant is disabled. In other words, doing so is not supposed to be fatal to a claim for Social Security disability. But, official policy has a way of not lining up precisely with practical policy. As noted above, the practical effect of collecting unemployment while applying for Social Security disability is to make the the chances of getting approved much lower.

Should I Apply For Unemployment While I Wait For Social Security?

So, what is the best approach? Obviously, it would be ideal not to collect unemployment while also applying for Social Security disability. But we do not live in an ideal world. I always tell people that if you cannot pay your rent or eat without unemployment payments, go ahead and apply. At the same time, if there is anyway not to collect unemployment, that is going to be better.

There is an inherent injustice in punishing disability applicants for collecting unemployment benefits. If Social Security promptly handled disability claims, it would be alright to ask claimants to not collect unemployment. But, with Social Security currently taking years to process disability claims, it does not seem right that they should object to whatever steps a claimant takes to keep house and home together.  Social Security has no answer to the simple question: what am I supposed to do while you process my application? That's bad enough, but to take the further step of punishing a claimant for claiming whatever resources are available while he or she waits is simply too much. 

Bottom line: apply for unemployment benefits if you have no other choice. Know, however, it is going to make getting approved for disability that much harder.

As always, I would be glad to discuss this or any other topic with you. Never hesitate to call or email. 

About the Author

John Kuhnlein

Since 1992, I have been helping the people of Southern Arizona get the benefits they are due. Before devoting all my efforts to assisting people with Social Security disability claims, I also handled such complex lawsuits as medical malpractice and products liability. I brought to my Social Security cases all the skills and attention to detail that I developed in the courtroom. I approach each Social Security disability case as if it were a million-dollar lawsuit. For the people trying to get Social Security benefits, their claim is every bit as important. Because I have personally handled so many Social Security cases, I have refined the skills I need to win your case for you. I have helped people win cases for every kind of ailment from arthritis to valley fever. At present, I am focused on helping those persons with neurological and orthopedic disorders. Because claims for people over age fifty bring additional complications, I particularly seek out those cases to work on. I regularly write about back and spine conditions on my blog. I actively seek out the latest information about orthopedic and neurological disorders to ensure I can represent my clients as effectively as possible. Because of my current focus, I regret that I am not able to take any cases for mental disorders. If you are over age fifty and suffer from any orthopedic or neurological disorder, please contact me at once.


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John Kuhnlein has been assisting people with Social Security disability claims for the past 25+ years.

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