What You Need to Know About Unemployment Benefits and Disability Law When You Apply for Both
There is a quandary in applying for Social Security disability benefits from the United States Social Security Administration while also signing up for state unemployment insurance. On the one hand, a Social Security disability applicant, to be eligible, is claiming that any kind of work is impossible. On the other hand, asking for unemployment insurance means swearing that the applicant is “available, willing and able” to work. Often, continuing proof of job searches must be provided for unemployment to continue.
This sticky situation is usually not considered at the first levels of application for Social Security benefits. But when a case arrives at the hearing, issues of credibility may arise. While receipt of unemployment benefits is not an automatic bar to disability benefits, it is a delicate matter to present to a judge. Technically, a claim cannot be denied solely on this basis. But there can be challenging moments if a claimant is directly asked during the Disability Law Judge Hearing a question such as: “were you lying then or are you lying now?”
Did You Believe You Could Work When You Applied for Unemployment?
A desire to work is not determinative of one’s ability to work. A claimant may have truly believed that he could work when he applied for unemployment. Questions to be addressed include whether the application for unemployment benefits took place at a time when the applicant thought he, or she, could work, but the medical evidence clearly established otherwise. Your disability lawyer should explore the history of your unemployment application: When did the claimant actually apply for unemployment compensation. Or, was the claimant ever actually offered work?
Were There Work Attempts To Return To Work That Failed?
An attempt to return to work which fails due to a lack of appropriate accommodations, or because of physical or mental difficulty, is called an “unsuccessful work attempt” for the purposes of Social Security Disability. The return to work will be deemed an unsuccessful work period, and you will still be eligible for benefits, if you worked for less than six months. Returning to work during the disability period for more than six months will almost certainly disqualify you from collecting Social Security Disability benefits. But, having unsuccessfully attempted a return to work, that lasted less than six months, can help prove that you are actually unable to return to work, and disabled.
Did Your Medical Condition Get Worse During the Wait?
The Social security Disability Application process can take a long time. Many, if not most, serious medical conditions will worsen over time, especially if you do not receive good medical care. Your medical, or psychiatric, condition may have deteriorated since applying for unemployment insurance. Just because you indicated you were able to work two years earlier, when you first applied for Social Security Disability benefits, does not mean that you are not disabled at the time of your Disability Law Judge Hearing. This is especially true when the your intervening birthdays move you to older age categories because Social Security Disability gets easier as you get the older.
Did the Job Market Change Significantly?
During a recession, like the COVID-19 pandemic, the job market can drastically change very rapidly. When that happens, the marketplace during a recession may demonstrate that the claimant is no longer employable like they were before the recession began. Earlier when you applied for unemployment benefits, there may have been jobs that you believed you could do. Later, at your disability hearing, there may no longer be jobs that you can do.
The reality is that state unemployment benefits are processed and paid much more quickly than Social Security benefits. Most federal courts hold that application for unemployment is “some” evidence, but not “conclusive” evidence of ability to work, and of credibility.
Is Social Security Bound By The Unemployment Decision?
The intersection of unemployment benefits and disability law can be complicated and you have to be careful when having applied for both unemployment and SSA disability. However, Social Security often says it is “never bound by the determination of another agency” like a state unemployment compensation program. The Social Security Administration has devised its own precise standards for disability, and they are decidedly not the same as those of the state unemployment program. There is no medical assessment of work-readiness required to apply for unemployment like there is in Social Security Disability. Treating physicians may even be advising against work.
Please consult us if you have a question about unemployment benefits and disability law by calling SocialSecurityCase.com at 855-GO-DISABILITY.