Can you Collect Unemployment & Disability?


If employment is not a choice, unemployment or disability may help. The states administer unemployment benefits with federal guidelines. Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability are federally operated programs. Disability insurance may also come from an insurance company through employment or if you paid the premiums. You may also collect worker's compensation for a disability. You probably cannot collect both unemployment and disability at the same time, since unemployment requires that you be able to work and disability entitlement requires that you not be able to work.

Disability Benefits

  • Social Security provides disability insurance for individuals who qualify. Qualification requires sufficient work history credits with taxes paid into the Social Security system. You must also meet the definition of disability under the regulations. Your condition must disable you from substantial gainful employment and be expected to last more than a year. SSI disability requirements are the same for the definition of disability, and require low income and few resources as well. A private insurance disability policy may have more liberal terms, especially for the first year of disability. Worker's compensation requires injury on the job.

Unemployment Compensation

  • States operate the unemployment compensation programs with federal supplements. Your employer pays unemployment insurance taxes to cover employees for job loss not of their making. Employees who quit work cannot receive unemployment compensation under most circumstances. You must actively seek employment and be ready and able to work if you get a job offer.

Worker's Compensation

  • If you receive worker's compensation benefits for your disability, most states will not allow you to collect unemployment benefits at the same time. According to a review by Social Security of unemployment benefits, half of the states reduce unemployment compensation by the worker's compensation benefits amount each week. Social Security disability does not preclude collecting unemployment at the same time, but it can hamper your ability to receive disability, according to the Social Security Insider website. You are also restricted to 80 percent of your average earnings prior to your disability. Social Security reduces SSI benefits by unemployment compensation benefits. As this is unearned income, Social Security subtracts unemployment compensation from your SSI disability at 100 percent after $20 exemption.


  • If you meet the qualifications and believe you can work, you may choose to apply for unemployment compensation because you can receive these benefits much faster. If you are turned down for unemployment or if you are sure you cannot work because of illness or injury, you may elect to apply for disability. You will need medical records to support your disability claim. The definition of disability is often the key in a private insurance policy. Social Security standards are high, and you must not be able to perform any work that pays more than $1,000 a month in 2011. This is substantial gainful activity under Social Security disability and SSI disability.


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