Can you receive unemployment benefits while you wait for a hearing?

On the face it appears that unemployment benefits and social security are mutually exclusive. Many people don’t realize that receiving unemployment can have a negative impact on a social security disability case. The reason for this is that when one applies for unemployment benefits he is attesting that he or “is “ready, willing, and able to work.” When one applies for Social Security he is attesting that he is “disabled and unable to work.”

However, receiving unemployment benefits is not a total bar to winning a Social Security case. I have a series of questions for the hearing that directly address the unemployment benefits. It does however create an additional stumbling block. If you apply for social security and receive unemployment you should discuss this with an attorney as soon as possible.

Can you work while waiting for your disability hearing?

This is a question that comes up all the time in my disability cases. In order to be eligible for Social Security, you must not be able to engage in “substantial gainful activity (SGA).” With an average wait time of 18-24 months for a hearing, it is so hard to live with no income. Unfortunately, working while waiting for your hearing does make the case more difficult. Social Security does allow for some work, as long as it does not exceed a certain amount in income. The monthly SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals for 2010 is $1640. For non-blind individuals, the monthly SGA amount for 2010 is $1000. SGA for the blind does not apply to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, while SGA for the non-blind disabled applies to Social Security and SSI benefits. See historical series of SGA amounts below. (Source)

Social Security has several guides for determining if a person has engaged in substantial gainful activity. My office reviews those guides and the work that a client has done to determine if an attempt to work will be a bar to receiving benefits. I also then look to see what options we may have to keep the case moving forward.