Can I Collect Unemployment and Social Security Disability?

Disability Benefits

If you recently became unable to work due to an illness or disability — and got laid off — you might wonder what type of monthly benefits you can collect. Your family may also wonder if you’ll get either unemployment or disability benefits through the Social Security Administration. But what if you could get both payments? Is that even an option for people in your situation?

What might feel like a very strange question isn’t all that unusual. In fact, one of our readers recently wrote in asking about it:

Question: Can I collect unemployment and Social Security disability payments?

Answer: Yes, in some cases.

Your State’s Unemployment Rules May Go Against One Key Disability Requirement

Here’s why this question seems so interesting. Generally, the government didn’t design these two programs to cover the exact same set of circumstances. By this, we mean that in order to get unemployment benefits, you must prove you’re actively looking for work. To do this, you must submit regular paperwork showing where you recently applied for jobs in your area. But to get Social Security disability benefits, you must prove that you’re unable to work. There is little overlap between the two, which makes it difficult to receive payments from both.

That said, it is legal to collect both payments — and receiving unemployment insurance benefits won’t necessarily prove you can still do your usual job tasks.

Showing You Qualify for Both Unemployment and Disability

The SSA must evaluate your disability claim after you apply for monthly benefits. You’ll have to show why you believe you qualify for both unemployment and disability payments. To do this effectively, you likely need assistance from a Social Security attorney who also understands your state’s current unemployment insurance requirements.

It bears repeating: If you get unemployment benefits after losing your job and then apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments, you may want to contact Social Security directly to discuss your unique situation. Then, you should consult a nearby lawyer who specializes in disability claims. (Not sure where to find someone with this exact type of experience, or how much it’ll cost? First, click the button at the bottom of this article. Then, fill out the form telling us where you live and the best way to contact you. We’ll use that info to match you with a nearby lawyer who can call right away with free claim help or legal advice. This service is always free and doesn’t obligate you to do anything else.)

Here are some circumstances where you may be able to prove you qualify for disability benefits and unemployment at the same time:

  • You can prove your health problems got worse since you applied for unemployment.
  • You’re only applying for Social Security disability now because your unemployment benefits will run out soon. Despite looking and applying for full-time work since you lost your job, no employers in your area will hire you.
  • Your health issues make full-time work difficult to impossible, so you’re only applying for part-time jobs.

Every person’s situation is different, and laws vary from state to state. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or confused, you can always consult a local disability attorney for free.

The Difference Between Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

The SSA runs two monthly benefit programs for people unable to work at least 12 months.

SSI is a needs-based program that helps people with little to no monthly income or assets who also cannot work for health reasons. Are you already getting unemployment insurance benefits? If yes, then your monthly income may be too high to qualify for SSI. The SSI program only pays $841/month per person or $1,261/month per couple. And the SSI program looks not just at your monthly income, but your entire household. That means you and your spouse, roommate, relative, or parents’ income combined cannot equal more than $1,350/month. Because these amounts are quite low, it’s very likely you get too much money from unemployment insurance to qualify for SSI.

SSDI is different. This is a program you pay into automatically via payroll tax deductions from every paycheck. Your income — even from unemployment benefits — and assets do not affect your eligibility for SSDI. It is legal to draw both SSDI and unemployment benefits, and neither reduces the amount of the other unless you live in Minnesota.

Still have questions about which benefits may be available to jobless residents in your state? Start by contacting your state’s unemployment agency. Retirement benefits other than Social Security (i.e., your pension or 401k distributions) may reduce your unemployment payments. No pension plan or 401k investments to draw money from or take out a loan against while unemployed? You can also reach out directly to the SSA or a nearby disability attorney for help understanding all your options.

Applying for unemployment and disability can feel difficult when you’re struggling health-wise. If you need help, talk to an experienced Social Security attorney for free by phone. 

Having a disability lawyer file your paperwork makes the process much easier. It also nearly triples your chances for getting SSD payments within 6 months! All disability lawyers work on contingency, so you pay nothing for claim help now. Already denied benefits? A local disability lawyer can review your claim and fix any mistakes before you appeal.

If the SSA doesn’t award you disability, then you pay your lawyer $0. And if you do win, then you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.

Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now!

Get Your Free Benefits Evaluation

Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at and