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Can You Get Unemployment and Disability at the Same Time?

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
Published March 28, 2024
Updated March 29, 2024
3 min read

When you’re unable to work, waiting for disability benefits to come through can be a major financial challenge. To help make ends meet, many people wonder if they can file for unemployment benefits alongside their disability claim.

If you’re considering this path, it’s important to understand that getting unemployment can impact your disability application.

Get free advice about your benefits options.

Can you get unemployment and disability benefits?

Collecting or applying for unemployment and disability at the same time is possible but isn’t recommended because it may jeopardize your disability benefits.

Receiving benefits from one program usually disqualifies you from the other. People can only qualify for Social Security disability if they're unable to work, but unemployment insurance is for those who say they’re ready and able to work. The safest choice is to stop unemployment while you wait for disability, or to apply for disability only after unemployment insurance ends.

There is a caveat, though. When you’re appealing a denial, the judge at your hearing may be more lenient. Your claim often comes down to the preferences of local judges. That’s why having a good disability lawyer can really help — a lawyer will know the tendencies of your local judges and can give specific advice based on your situation.

Need help finding a disability lawyer? Atticus can match you with an experienced disability lawyer for free. Start with our 2-minute disability quiz and our team will reach out to discuss possible next steps.

When unemployment and disability can work together

It is common to use unemployment and disability programs consecutively, like getting disability after stopping unemployment.

For example, let’s say you leave your job due to illness or injury and apply for unemployment benefits. After staying on unemployment for six months, you realize you’re not able to go back to your previous work. In this case, ending unemployment and applying for disability benefits is definitely an option.

There may also be situations when you get a job through the SSA’s Ticket to work program, leave that job, and qualify for unemployment alongside your disability benefits.

For more information, here's our guide to working while on disability.

Getting unemployment while on SSDI

There are circumstances when someone on SSDI is working part-time, loses their job, and could be eligible for unemployment benefits. The key is that you don’t hit the income cap of $1,550 per month ($2,590 for those who are blind). If your part-time work or unemployment benefits push you above that limit, you could lose your SSDI.

Working while on SSDI is tricky. We recommend talking with a good disability lawyer if you have questions about how much work you’re allowed to do or how much you can earn.

Getting unemployment while on SSI

Supplemental Security Income is based on financial need and there are strict income requirements. To qualify for SSI, you must make less than $943 per month and have less than $2,000 in savings, investments, or other assets. The size of your SSI benefit also changes based on how much you earn.

If you start receiving unemployment benefits on SSI, you need to report that income to Social Security. The SSA will then adjust your benefit based on your new income. You will also lose benefits any time your income or savings at the end of the month are above the SSI limits.

Unemployment benefits with short-term disability

In states with their own disability insurance program, you most likely can’t receive state disability and unemployment benefits at the same time. For example, California does not allow you to use both programs at once.

If you’re getting temporary disability payments through a workers’ comp program, you probably can’t get unemployment benefits at the same time, but it depends on your situation. (Learn more in our guide to workers’ comp benefits.)

Supplementing your income while waiting for disability

Whether you just applied for disability benefits or already receive them, there’s a very real need to put food on the table. It is possible to generate some additional income while on SSDI as long as you don’t earn more than $1,550 per month. The monthly income limit for SSI is $943. In some cases, you may qualify for SSDI and SSI at the same time.

State programs that could help you

There are any number of state programs available if you’re waiting for disability approval or just need more income. We have a more complete list of resources for people with disabilities but here are some some helpful programs to look for:

  • Free or low-cost healthcare like Health Resources and Services Administration Health Centers and the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics

  • Housing and Bill Pay support from the Department of Housing and Urban Development or Emergency Rental Assistance Programs

  • Food assistance from Meals on Wheels or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP)

  • Legal support and benefit assistance including free guidance from your friends at Atticus or the National Disability Rights Network

How a disability lawyer can help you

If you’re getting unemployment benefits (or planning to) while you file for disability, the best thing you can do is work with a lawyer to avoid putting your claim at risk. Claimants who work with a lawyer are three times more likely to win benefits and you don’t have to pay the lawyer anything unless you win.

At Atticus, we’ve spent years vetting disability lawyers. Our trusted network can help you navigate the confusing disability application and answer all of your questions.

To get guidance today, fill out our free quiz. We'll reach out to talk with you more about your situation and connect you to the right lawyer for your case.

Get free legal help (and a lawyer — only if you want one).

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Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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