FAQ About Disability Benefits and Unemployment

FAQ About Disability Benefits and Unemployment

When it comes to disability benefits and unemployment, these two kinds of payments may seem inherently at odds with each other. After all, to qualify for disability payments, you must have a demonstrated condition that prevents you from working. At the same time, in order to obtain unemployment, you must generally meet the condition of being actively engaged in seeking full-time work.

disability benefits and unemployment

In many situations, you won’t be able to qualify for both disability payments and unemployment benefits at the same time. But there are specific circumstances under which beneficiaries may be entitled to both—and that can mean the difference between staying afloat or continuing to struggle in these tough economic times. Read on to find out if you may be eligible for one or both of these forms of aid with the help of a Social Security disability lawyer.

Does Disability Pay the Same as Unemployment?    

In short, no. The amount of disability benefits or unemployment an individual receives is based on too many factors, including the state you live in, your age, work history, etc. It’s important to note that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment benefits have been extended and supplemented by the federal government via temporary programs including Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).   

How Much Does Unemployment Pay?

Most states offer about 26 weeks’ worth of unemployment benefits, but how your benefits are calculated varies. In Massachusetts, for example, unemployment benefits are 1/2 of your average weekly earnings. Your weekly unemployment benefits could range from a minimum of $98 to a maximum of $1,234.

In other states, however, unemployment is not so generous. In Mississippi, recipients will get between just $30 and $235 per week, or 1/26 of their earnings in the highest quarter of your base period (the first four of the last five calendar quarters prior to your claim). In most states, the range is somewhere between $300 to $500 per week. To really get an idea of how much you could get on unemployment (and in conjunction with the recent extension of federal pandemic unemployment assistance), you’ll need to contact your local unemployment office.

How Much Does Disability Pay?

In order to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments, you’ll have to meet two major requirements. Firstly, you must have a qualifying medical condition which prevents you from working. Secondly, you must have earned enough work credits. (If you are disabled but do not have enough work credits, you may still qualify for financial assistance through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.)

SSDI benefits are dependent upon your lifetime average earnings (a portion of which you paid into Social Security). As such, having access to your full work history becomes extremely important when estimating what your benefit amount could be. 

Going into 2021, the average disabled worker will receive $1,277 per month in disability benefits. The maximum monthly payment a disabled worker can receive in 2021 is $3,011. In other words, disability benefits provide steady (although not exorbitant) income for workers who are truly disabled and who are unlikely to be able to return to work. 

Learn more about how Social Security disability benefit amounts are calculated.

Can I Get Unemployment While I’m Waiting For Disability?

Trying to make ends meet when you’re disabled can be very difficult. And because qualifying for benefits can sometimes take months or even years, many people are concerned about how they’ll continue to pay their bills while waiting for a decision from the Social Security Administration (SSA). 

Unfortunately, the SSA does not automatically provide applicants any intermediary financial aid while waiting for disability. Exceptions to this rule include serious conditions that qualify for compassionate allowance or expedited reinstatement for those who have lost their benefits but qualified in the past.

disability benefits and unemployment

If you lost your job because of your disability—that is, you missed too many shifts because of doctor’s appointments or could no longer perform the job’s essential duties—you could potentially qualify for unemployment benefits. That being said, collecting unemployment may be a bad look for your disability claim. 

Unemployment benefits are designed for temporarily laid-off workers who are both ready and willing to work. Disability benefits are for permanently disabled workers who are unable to work or engage in any kind of Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). As of 2021, SGA refers to monthly income in excess of $1,310 for non-blind disabled individuals. 

Should you bring your claim to a disability hearing in the future, an administrative law judge could doubt the legitimacy of your inability to work based on the fact that you collected unemployment. Bottom line: it is highly recommended to consult with an experienced attorney before applying for disability benefits and unemployment.

SSDI applicants who need interim financial assistance may find it helpful to reach out to their state’s Department of Social Services. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), and your local Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) may be able to help.

Can I Collect Disability Benefits and Unemployment At the Same Time?

Although disability benefits and unemployment payments don’t mix much of the time, there are some circumstances in which an individual receiving disability benefits could also be entitled to unemployment. If you are working part-time on disability (while earning less than current SGA thresholds) and you are laid off from your job, you may be able to collect both your SSDI benefits and unemployment at the same time. 

The same may be true if you are in a trial work period as a part of the SSA’s Ticket to Work Program and are laid off. Keep in mind, however, that requirements and restrictions on how much you can receive from your state’s unemployment office in addition to disability payments may vary considerably depending on where you live and work. In states such as Wisconsin and North Carolina, SSDI recipients are regularly disqualified from receiving regular unemployment insurance. Luckily, lawmakers changed course when it came to allowing SSDI beneficiaries to apply for PUA. 

Who Can Help Me With Disability Benefits and Unemployment?

If you still have questions about disability benefits and unemployment, the best course of action is to talk to a qualified professional. Many state agencies have been overwhelmed by inquiries and applications during the coronavirus pandemic. For knowledgeable and personalized assistance, contact a Social Security disability attorney at Social Security Disability Advocates USA.

Our law firm offers free, no obligation consultations for those who need help applying for benefits or appealing a decision. Call us today at 602-952-3200, connect with one of our LiveChat agents, or simply fill out this form to request your free case review.

This is attorney advertising. SSDA, LLC is a group of attorneys that pursues claims for Social Security Disability benefits on behalf of its clients against the Social Security Administration. SSDA, LLC is in no way a part of the Social Security Administration. Further, the information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a representative-client relationship.

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