The Social Security Disability determination process is painfully slow. Right now, the average claim is taking approximately 16 to 18 months from the date the application is filed to the date of the hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). However, even if a claimant “wins” their claim, they may have to wait up to another three to four months until they see any money. Many claimants lack the financial resources to meet their basic needs, provide for their family, and pay for their medication care without seeing a Social Security Disability check for almost two years. Given this, many claimants seek unemployment benefits as a way to keep things above water while they wait.
Receiving unemployment benefits while waiting for the hearing is often problematic. In order to receive unemployment benefits, one has to sign a document essentially stating that he or she is ready, willing, and able to work. Additionally, in order to receive unemployment, one must actively be looking for work. When seeking disability, however, one states that he or she is unable to work due to a total and permanent disability. Needless to say, one cannot both be able to work and disabled at the same time.
Receiving unemployment will not automatically preclude an award of disability benefits; however, an ALJ may be more hesitant to grant the claim. When an ALJ notices that a claimant has received unemployment benefits following their application for disability, the ALJ may ask the claimant to explain how he or she is both able to work and disabled at the same time. The best approach in answering this question is raw honesty. If a claimant truly feels they are disabled, but needed the money to support their family while they waited 16 to 18 months … tell the ALJ. However, it is important to be aware that no matter how a claimant answers, some ALJs will view the above fact as very negative.
If a claimant has received unemployment benefits while waiting for their hearing they basically have three options to choose from when dealing with this issue. The first option is to hope that the ALJ will either not ask or not notice that the claimant’s social security number reflects additional earnings. The odds of this happening are very low. The second is to hope that receiving unemployment benefits will not harm the claim’s odds of success. The third option is to change or amend the initial date of disability to after the claimant stopped receiving unemployment benefits. Because of the potential negative impact unemployment benefits could have on a claimant’s claim for disability, it is highly recommended to speak with an advocate on this issue to learn what option is best given the facts of your situation.
A Nevada Social Security Disability attorney at Shook & Stone can help guide you through this process and make sure you receive your proper benefits.