Can You File a Disability Claim While on Unemployment?

Collecting Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI) and unemployment benefits simultaneously is unusual. Each one is a much-needed form of supplemental income, but they serve two different purposes. It can be controversial to file a disability claim while on unemployment, and you don’t want to go through the process of filing unless there is reason to believe your application will be accepted.

There are scenarios in which someone might receive overlapping benefits, particularly if a disability claim is based on changing circumstances. Disability claims examiners and Social Security judges use their discretion when making rulings and oftentimes reject claims. Your unemployment status could signal to them that you will return to work soon, so just be sure you’re not jeopardizing your disability claim by sending mixed messages in your application.

Filing for Disability While on Unemployment in Arizona

Unemployment benefits enable workers to pay for basic needs while they look for a new job. To receive unemployment in Arizona, you typically must be willing and able to accept suitable, full-time employment. In such states, it can be more difficult to receive both types of benefits since it is presumed you are seeking full-time employment. In contrast, SSDI is intended to support people who are unable to work due to a disability.

However, there might be a valid reason that could lead you to file for both types of benefits – for example, if you become injured while collecting unemployment. Some people receive reduced monthly disability payments while working in a limited capacity, so one could argue that minimal work isn’t a disqualifying factor.

Receiving Both Benefits

When you file for disability, you are generally stating that you haven’t been able to work for twelve months, at least enough to reasonably support yourself. It can also signal that you anticipate being unable to work for at least that long, even if you were recently let go from a job, so there is a gray area. People receiving disability are entitled to a trial work period, during which time their ability to work is being assessed.

In other words, the Social Security Administration (SSA) understands that work situations can change depending on your medical status. Trial periods can provide relief for people with fluctuating health and work situations and can continue until you have worked nine months within a 60-month period

How Will the SSA Respond?

A disability judge will likely know if you’re collecting unemployment benefits. Can you prove your condition has worsened since you applied for them? Some judges may deny your disability claim if you received unemployment after applying for disability, but there is some leeway when it comes to rulings. For instance, you might not receive disability benefits for the time you were on unemployment, but they could still kick in afterward. As long as you have a verified disability that limits your ability to work, there is a chance you will qualify after your unemployment ends.

However, if records show that you have recently applied for certain jobs, that information could impact your ruling, particularly if they require physical labor that seemingly contradicts your claim.

Exceptions to the Rule

It isn’t illegal to claim both benefits at some point if it becomes necessary to do so. One role of the SSA is to determine the type of work you are realistically able to perform with your disability. This is known as your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). There might be a valid argument for doing so if:

You might qualify for disability if you can’t do your old job and it would be difficult to switch professions based on your age. Older applicants with physical limitations might have a higher chance because there are more reasons their ability to work is limited.

Work with a Disability Lawyer

A thorough review of your medical records will take place to determine the limitations of your disability and the reason you need additional assistance. If you are on unemployment, you will benefit from a legal expert who can provide perspective on your situation. Some disability lawyers advise against collecting unemployment benefits when applying for SSDI, and your lawyer will tell you if your claim resembles others that have been denied.

If you need a lawyer who specializes in Social Security Disability to help you understand more about receiving payments while on unemployment, fill out our online form or call us at 480-508-8800 to schedule a free case evaluation.

Can You Work While Receiving SSDI Benefits?

There’s an unfortunate but common misconception that people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are not allowed to work. Not only is this idea false, but it can lead to a loss of income for disabled people who need it the most.

People with disabilities benefit in many ways from retaining some form of employment if they so desire. It’s true that many recipients aren’t able to work. However, many people in Arizona do have some earnings and still collect benefits.

How much you can make – and whether that affects your benefits – is another question, since the formula is a balance between income amount and other criteria. Whether you receive benefits and are thinking of trying out a new job, or work part time and want to apply for benefits, it’s always good to know your rights.

Receiving SSDI Benefits While Working

Social Security can disqualify applicants who are making too much money from working. Generally, the person must either be unable to work or be making below the substantial gainful activity (SGA), which is $1,310 a month in 2021. For blind people the amount is $2,190. Once you start receiving payments, this same rule can cause your payments to fluctuate if you start or stop working.

As a rule, when your income goes up, it can cause your disability payments to go down. And making too much money can disqualify you entirely. But there’s an extended period of time during which the rules aren’t so stringent. Additionally, certain conditions and guidelines allow many people to work part time without being cut off from benefits.

Trial Work Period

If the SGA rule has you frustrated, you might be relieved to know there is some flexibility in the system. Under federal rules, people receiving disability are entitled to a trial work period. The trial work period continues until you have worked nine months within a 60-month period. In 2021, any month in which earnings exceed $940 is considered a trial work month.

During this period there is no limit on earnings. The idea is that your ability to work is being assessed during this time. Typically, you’ll still be classified as disabled, and your benefits shouldn’t be affected by how much you earn during this period.

These trial periods can provide relief for people whose health or work situation fluctuates, as well as for people making efforts to supplement their benefits with some additional income. Because the trial process is designed with fluctuations in mind, those nine months don’t have to be consecutive. The formula might include other factors – for instance, depending on whether you’re a student or are self-employed.

Extended Period of Eligibility

After your trial work period, if you are still receiving payments, you’ll enter an extended period of eligibility for the next 36 months. That doesn’t mean your ability to work is over. The SGA rule still applies, but certain work-related expenses can be deducted from your earnings.

If you are working and have substantial earnings, deducting expenses might be a way to continue receiving payments. Possible deductions include:

  • Copayments for prescriptions;
  • Counseling services;
  • Travel expenses;
  • A wheelchair;
  • A career coach; or
  • Specialized work equipment.

This is another area that should be discussed with someone familiar with the matter. If it is determined that that you’re no longer eligible, your benefits could be terminated.

Reporting Changes

When disability recipients begin to work, they’re expected to report their income to SSA. Of course, it’s not unusual for an individual’s health or work status to fluctuate. However, it is important that you or your representative report if:

  • You start or stop work;
  • Your duties, hours, or pay has changed; or
  • You’ve begun paying expenses for work that are related to your disability.

To avoid future hassles, keep your own copies of any documentation you submit, and request proof of reporting. For example, if you drop off a copy of your pay stubs, be sure you get a date stamp on your copy.

It goes without saying: striking a balance between earning an income and requesting assistance can be complicated. Any type of supplemental income has rules attached that can require a lengthy application process. It’s in your best interest to find out as much as possible about what those rules are before submitting your application.

If you need a lawyer who specializes in Social Security Disability to help you understand more about working while receiving payments, fill out our online form or call us at 480-508-8800 to schedule a free case evaluation.

5 Criteria to Qualify for Disability Benefits in Arizona

If you’re disabled and out of work, you might be eligible for financial assistance through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). This cash payment program is available to people who meet the federal definition of “disabled” in addition to other qualifying criteria.

Roughly a quarter of adults in the United States live with some disability, but many of these people wouldn’t actually qualify for disability benefits. In fact, SSDI applicants are often denied on first submission.

So How Do You Qualify for Disability Benefits?

For anyone applying, the first step in qualifying is meeting the definition of disabled as spelled out by the Social Security Administration (SSA). In 2017, about 98,000 people in Arizona received disability payments. The conditions that qualified them were typically quite serious or even terminal.

Even if you’re not ready to apply, you can visit the SSA online to get a sense of whether your condition is included. To start receiving payments, most people can expect to go through an application process, answer a series of questions and be prepared to provide supporting documentation.

Applicants typically must meet these qualifying factors:

1. You Meet the Definition of Disability under the Social Security Administration

A person is considered disabled if they are unable to work due to a severe medical condition that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least one year. The condition must prevent them from doing their job or adjusting to a different line of work.

Of course, it can be difficult to know how long you will miss work as a result of a disability. When applying, you’ll be asked a series of questions to determine whether you’re able to continue supporting yourself. You might have to show evidence or explain that your condition is severe enough that you’re unable to make enough money to support yourself.

If you do qualify for disability benefits you’re still allowed to earn money, but earnings must be under a Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) amount determined by the government. In 2021, the monthly limit for non-blind people is $1,310; for blind people it’s $2,190.

2. Health Conditions that Qualify

Dozens of health issues are considered as possible qualifying conditions for SSDI. Some common ones include:

  • Musculoskeletal issues such as spinal fractures
  • Certain cardiovascular conditions such as heart failure
  • Severe vision impairment or hearing loss
  • Debilitating breathing conditions such as COPD

Your waiting time might be shorter, however, if you qualify under Compassionate Allowances. This initiative was created to quickly identify diseases and conditions that meet the criteria for disability benefits. If you qualify, your chances might automatically be higher for receiving SSDI. The list includes rare, life-threatening diseases, certain cancers, and brain disorders.

3. You’ve Paid Social Security Taxes

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program pays benefits to you, and sometimes to certain family members, based on how much you’ve already paid into Social Security through your work history. But your income level doesn’t determine your payment amount. To qualify you just need to have worked long enough – and recently enough – and paid Social Security taxes on those earnings.

4. You’ve Accrued Enough Work Hours

With the exception of blind people, a disabled person’s work history is the basis for eligibility under this program. As a result, the benefits amount is also based in part on your average lifetime earnings. The program has a system for quantifying “credits” based on an applicant’s work history.

In other words, whether you are eligible for disability benefits could also depend on how many “credits” you have earned. The formula is a bit complicated, as it combines both your age and years worked to determine how many credits you have. The number of credits necessary to meet the recent work guidelines also varies depending on your age group. For example:

  • The credit formula for someone who becomes disabled at age 27 isn’t the same as it is for someone who becomes disabled at 31.
  • The number of years you need to have worked increases the older you get.
  • So, while a 30-year-old generally needs to have accrued two years of work, that amount is seven years of work for someone who is 50.

5. You Have Records

It’s important to have medical records to back up your claims. To apply, you’re expected to provide documentation about your earned income, work history, and disability. Medical records must show that you have received treatment for the injury or illness that contributes to your inability to work. Those records might come from a doctor or other healthcare professionals, or a professional service such as a Social Security Disability lawyer.

Assistance in Determining If You Might Qualify for Disability

If you need a lawyer specializing in Social Security Disability or have questions about how to qualify for SSDI, fill out our online form or call us at 480-508-8800 to schedule a free case evaluation.