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Can you collect unemployment if you have applied for Social Security disability?

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Technically, yes, if you qualify for unemployment and are not too sick to work, but it may be a factor in whether you're approved for Social Security Disability (SSDI). Typically, state statutes require you to be able to fulfill the requirements of the contract you sign with your state's unemployment division, however.

While federal law and the Social Security Administration doesn't prohibit people on (SSDI) disability from receiving unemployment checks, state unemployment regulations usually require all unemployment recipients to be actively seeking, willing and able to accept full-time work for which they are qualified. This creates a conflict, because you're generally not eligible for Social Security disability benefits if you're capable of full-time work.

When you file for unemployment compensation, all states require you to provide your Social Security number (authorized under Internal Revenue Code of 1954, 26 U.S.C. 85, Sections 6011(a), 6050(b), 6109(a), P.L. 98-369, Section 1137(a)(1)). They will share information about your claim with other government agencies to determine how unemployment affects other benefits you may receive, such as Medicaid and food stamps.

Under most state unemployment statutes, you must be ready, willing and able to accept full-time employment, be actively seeking work, and must accept any reasonable employment offer for which you are qualified (unless there are legitimate, extenuating circumstances for refusing the offer), or your unemployment compensation can (and probably will) be terminated.

If you are physically incapable of doing qualifying work under your state unemployment agreement, the state may consider you ineligible for benefits, or may consider your claim fraudulent if they later discover you're too disabled to fulfill your contractual agreement.

If you are in the process of filing for Social Security disability, the conflict between simultaneously claiming to be incapable of "Substantial Gainful Activity" (SGA), which generally translates to full-time work, and contractually agreeing that you're willing to accept full-time work (under state unemployment regulations) in exchange for unemployment compensation, may result in being denied disability status (most initial claims and first appeals are denied, anyway).

If you persist with the disability claim and proceed to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), it will take approximately 18 months to two years from the date you originally filed the claim until your hearing date.

By then, your unemployment compensation will (probably) have been exhausted and you will either have been forced to accept employment (thus ending your disability claim for all practical purposes) or will continue to be unemployed or be under-employed.

Your employment status may be a factor in the judge's decision to award or deny disability, but it will not necessarily prevent you from being approved. The disability determination process is usually long, and should not be viewed as a way of generating quick cash.

For information regarding your specific circumstances, contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213, or seek consultation with a disability attorney.
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