I just came back from the semi-annual meeting of NOSSCR, our national organization for Social Security Disability attorneys. These conferences are valuable not only because we are able to renew acquaintances and contacts, but because it provides an opportunity for us to discuss with other Social Security Disability lawyers from all over the country the problems we and our clients face. In addition, there are always some practical pointers we bring home and use as we represent our disabled clients and answer their questions.
Since our current recession began two years ago a question we get from almost every client is "I am receiving Unemployment; can I still get Social Security Disability?"
The question was raised a number of times at different sessions during the week and I am happy to report that the short answer is "yes".
In 2006, the Chief Administrative Law Judge issued a memo to all the ALJ's reminding them that "the receipt of unemployment insurance benefits does not preclude the receipt of Social Security Disability benefits. [It] is only one of many factors that must be considered."
In addition, some deep thinking lawyers at the conference pointed out that the Regulations state that a person over 50 whose past work was physically demanding is disabled if he or she is now limited to sedentary work. Thus, even if such a person receives Social Security Disability, he or she could be "ready willing and able" to do sedentary work and thus qualify for unemployment compensation (UI) as well!
The same is true for part time work; being "ready willing and able to work," but only less than full time, appears to allow for the receipt of both types of benefits.
Before this meeting, my standard answer had been that since you have to be "ready willing and able" to work to receive unemployment compensation and that is inconsistent with the finding that we are asking Social Security to make regarding disability, you could not receive both at the same time. Yet as a practical matter the Agency and especially the Judges understand the need to get some income, so this has never been a significant problem for my clients. I have not seen any judges find a claimant not disabled until his UI is exhausted, or even deny a claim due to receipt of UI.
But until this meeting I also cautioned claimants that once their Social Security Disability is approved they should advise Unemployment and stop accepting those benefits.
Now I am far more confident that simply receiving UI is not a factor that would disqualify someone from applying for or receiving SSD at this time. Going further, I may even start advising certain clients that they can continue to receive UI after the SSD claim is approved! But being a lawyer, I will point out that this is not black and white and that the view of either side could change over time.