Can I Apply for Social Security Disability If I’m Unemployed?

Lloyd King Law Firm PLLC   Dec. 20, 2022

Person Filling Social Security Disability Claim Form.On the surface, Social Security Administration (SSDI) and unemployment insurance may seem like they are incompatible. SSDI provides benefits for those who can’t continue working the same way they had before they got their disability. On the other hand, unemployment insurance (UI) gives someone support during the time they look for new work. 

If you’re receiving UI benefits and also hope to be approved for SSDI benefits, the Social Security Administration says that is not a barrier, but don’t rest on that reassurance. While you may get approved for both at the same time, there’s a good chance you will not. Only about 60 percent of all applicants are turned away. If you have to appeal the denial through a hearing with an administrative law judge, the judge may have completely different views on the issue. 

As a former disability law judge for the SSA, I’m prepared to support you. If you face difficulties in getting approved for SSDI, whether it involves unemployment insurance or other issues, contact me immediately. I know the SSDI system and can help you fight for fair consideration for your benefits request.  

Qualifying for SSDI 

To qualify for SSDI benefits, there are a few conditions. These include the following: 

  • You need to have a physical or mental condition that will keep you from working in your occupation for at least 12 months or until death. You must be able to provide supporting medical evidence for your claim. 

  • Your unemployment/SSDI government earnings cannot total more than $1,350 a month.  

  • You have paid enough into the Social Security system through tax deductions at work or through self-employment taxes. The SSA calls these contributions “work credits,” and the number you must have accumulated varies depending on your age.  

The general requirement is 40 accumulated work credits, with 20 of them earned in the past 10 years. A work credit accrues from every $1,510 you earn and pay taxes on. You can earn four credits each year. 

For all your questions and concerns about SSDI in and around Raleigh, North Carolina, contact me at the Lloyd King Law Firm PLLC. I also proudly serve clients in the neighboring communities of Roanoke Rapids, Fayetteville, and Greensboro. 

Can I Apply for SSDI While Receiving Unemployment Benefits 

Anyone can apply for SSDI at any time. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll be approved. An SSDI attorney can help you decide when and how is the best way to apply. It can also avoid any appeals that you may need to do.  

You can apply for SSDI if you are... 

  • Unemployed and facing a condition that prevents you from continuing your occupation for at least 12 months 

  • And able to certify the condition and its effects on you. 

The question arises whether you can still apply if you’re receiving unemployment benefits. If you’re approved first, then your worries are lessened. But if you’re disproved, you may need to appeal and go before a judge.  

Judges have different approaches to the issue. For some, it may not matter if you’re receiving unemployment benefits, while for others it could be a determining factor in the other way – it disqualifies you, or disqualifies you at least until the UI benefits run out.  

Factors Involved in an SSDI Decision 

Once you meet the definition of disability and can show that you have sufficient work credits, you can submit your claim to the SSA, which does not directly administer the SSDI program. Your claim will be sent to what is called Disability Determination Services. Their examiners will review your claim and evidence. If the disabling condition you claim is not accepted, you may have to take a few extra steps to prove your condition qualifies. 

The initial approval rate is historically below 50 percent, so it’s not unusual to be rejected on your first submission. If you are rejected, you have options: 

  • You can file for reconsideration by a different disability examining officer. 

  • If you are again rejected, then your next option is a hearing, where unemployment insurance may loom as a larger issue. 

Factors Involved If You’re on Unemployment Insurance 

In your initial claims application, being on unemployment insurance may not be an issue, but age and other factors beyond work credits and disability also factor in. These include the following: 

  • Education level 

  • Skill level 

  • Skills that can be used in a different occupation 

  • How much the applicant can do in light of the condition

When it comes to age, claimants are divided into four categories: 

  • Younger adults, 18 to 49 

  • Those approaching advanced age, 50 to 54 

  • Advanced age, 55 and older 

  • Those approaching retirement age, 60 and older 

The bottom line is that the older the claimant, the better chance that person has of being approved. 

If you do end up appealing, a judge may ask you what types of jobs you applied for while out on unemployment benefits. If you applied for the same type of full-time work as before, this could be a strike against you. You can counter that you only applied for part-time work or for work that was “light duty” or less stressful. 

Depend on Trusted Legal Counsel 

It is always a good idea to seek legal counsel when filing a claim. Your attorney can help you determine if you’re qualified and also help you assemble the documentation you need. This can improve your chance of success.  

If you’re in the Raleigh area or nearby in Roanoke Rapids, Fayetteville, and Greensboro, contact me immediately at the Lloyd King Law Firm PLLC. As a former disability judge for the SSA, I have the experience, knowledge and resources to help you challenge any obstacles standing in your path to SSDI benefits.