Can You Get Unemployment and Disability Benefits at the Same Time

If you have a disability and cannot find work, you have an uphill battle. But you may be able to support yourself and even enter a pathway to the workforce by leveraging available government programs such as unemployment and disability benefits. People often wonder, Can you get unemployment and disability benefits at the same time in Pennsylvania? 

Unemployment benefits are for those who are legally ready, willing, and able to work but cannot currently find work. In contrast, disability benefits are for those who are legally unable to work because they are blind, have a disability, or are over 65 and meet an income threshold. For that reason, people typically cannot apply for and receive both unemployment and disability benefits. Further, attempting to do so may harm their claim and disqualify them from receiving benefits. That said, there are government programs that can help workers re-enter the workforce despite having a disability that prevents them from participating in gainful employment.  

Krasno Krasno & Onwudinjo are tireless advocates for those who suffer work injuries, have a disability, or are down on their luck and need help applying for government benefits. Government assistance programs are there to support people when they need them but are riddled with complications, bureaucratic hurdles, and contradictions. Our team of Pennsylvania social security disability lawyers proudly serves as guides and legal representatives for those applying for these vital programs. We help make the process as seamless and stress-free as possible while maximizing the benefits our clients receive. 

Who Is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Pennsylvania?

The Pennsylvania (PA) Department of Labor and Industry Office of Unemployment Compensation administers the unemployment compensation program. To receive unemployment benefits, you must meet the following standard eligibility requirements.:

  • You earned a certain minimum amount during your “base year.” According to the Office of Unemployment Compensation, the base year is the first four of the five most recently completed calendar quarters before you applied for unemployment.
  • You must be unemployed through no fault of your own. In certain cases, you can remain eligible even if you quit your job or were fired. But, most often, quitting or getting fired renders you ineligible for unemployment benefits. As always, exceptions may apply. 
  • You must be willing and able to work, and you must be looking for a job. In certain situations, however, you can remain eligible for partial unemployment benefits even while working part-time. But you will have to prove that you are looking for full-time work during the entire time that you receive benefits.

But meeting the standard eligibility requirements is just the starting point. Ultimately, your application will be approved or denied based on the circumstances of your individual case. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry will also consider a host of other factors, such as whether you meet the work credit criteria and submit the required paperwork. Further, you must meet ongoing eligibility requirements, such as proving that you are actively looking for full-time work while receiving benefits.  

What Is Social Security Disability?

There are two types of federal disability benefits: SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) and SSI (Supplemental Security Income). Both of these programs impose both medical and financial requirements for people to be eligible for disability benefits. These programs are available to people who are experiencing long-term disability, i.e., a physical or mental impairment that they expect to prevent them from ever working again. People who are temporarily unable to work may be eligible to receive short-term disability benefits, such as workers’ compensation. 

Who Is Eligible for Supplement Security Income Benefits?

The Supplemental Security Income or SSI program is available to those who meet certain eligibility requirements. Those who successfully apply for this program may receive weekly or monthly benefits to help them support themselves. To qualify for SSI benefits, the individual must be:

  • Blind, 
  • 65 or older, or 
  • Have a qualifying disability. 

Additionally, they must meet other requirements, such as the following:

  • They must have limited resources or income; 
  • They must not be confined in a government-funded facility; 
  • They must be a US citizen, national, or non-citizen with a qualifying immigration status; and
  • They must apply for other benefits for which they may be eligible, such as pensions. 

Children under 18 may also qualify as disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment that severely limits their ability to function and the impairment is expected to last longer than one year or will result in death. For adults, the same definition applies to the impairment; however, they must show that the impairment prevents them from participating in substantial gainful activity. 

Proving that you cannot engage in substantial gainful activity, such as work, is often more difficult than it seems. Part of this is because of the SSA’s restrictive and sometimes outdated listing of possible jobs available for people to engage in. When arguing that you cannot participate in gainful activity, in many cases, you must argue that there is no job that you can reasonably do and support yourself. SSA includes some obsolete and unavailable jobs in its repertoire of possible work people can do. It is often up to the person applying for disability or their attorney to make good-faith arguments that they cannot perform those jobs or no such job is available. 

Who Is Eligible to Receive Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits?

To be eligible for SSDI or Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, you must meet a separate set of guidelines that include the following:

  • You must have worked and paid into the Social Security disability system. 
  • You must meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability. 

In addition, you must have sufficient work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits. You earn work credits as you either earn money from self-employment or through working and paying into the social security system. As the Social Security Administration explains, the number of credits you earn through working changes every year. That said, the maximum number of credits you can earn per year is typically four. The number of credits you need to qualify for SSDI depends on how old you are when the disability begins. 

Like with SSI benefits, the disability must qualify under the SSA’s definition of an impairment. The SSA has fairly restrictive definitions of disability, which require that you make less than a designated amount, have a severe disorder listed in the SSA’s list of impairments, and an impairment that prevents you from participating in any type of gainful employment. The maximum monthly income you can receive from work depends on the rate in effect at the time and whether you meet the definition of totally blind. For those who are not blind, the maximum monthly income amount in 2023 is $1,470. For those who are blind, the maximum is $2,460 in 2023. 

As with applying for SSI, the application process for SSDI benefits can be complex and confusing. Consulting a PA social security attorney may be beneficial to help you meet the requirements under the applicable law. Missteps during the application process can result in a denial or a delay, during which time you are not receiving the financial support you need. 

Are There Opportunities to Work While Receiving Disability Benefits?

The Social Security Administration has put together some useful programs to help people work without losing their benefits outright. Many begin to recover or think they would like to try to work but are afraid to because they do not want to lose their benefits and not be able to support themselves. Participating in these programs empowers people to earn income or pursue higher education while maintaining their benefits. 

The Social Security Disability Ticket to Work Program

If you are already receiving disability benefits and you believe that you may be able to work despite your disability, you can join the SSA Ticket to Work Program (TWP). Under this program, people work with a plan coordinator to locate work they can perform on a provisional basis. They will coordinate with you to understand your abilities and any restrictions you need on your work to find something that works for you. 

While you participate in the Ticket to Work program, you most likely will not lose your benefits so long as your monthly income does not exceed the monthly maximum. This maximum is different for everyone. Further, Social Security Administration may deduct some amounts (such as work incentives) in determining your monthly maximum. The amounts they deduct do not count towards your monthly maximum, leaving you to earn while maintaining your benefits if you continue to follow the designated program. 

The Social Security Disability Plan to Achieve Self-Support Program

The Plan to Achieve Self-Support program empowers people to work towards an educational or another goal while still maintaining their benefits. Like with the Ticket to Work program, the participants work with a coordinator to create a plan, and they submit it to the SSA for approval. Money set aside to accomplish this plan (such as money set aside for a college course) may be disregarded when the SSA calculates the person’s monthly income and the value of their assets.  

Can You Get Unemployment and Disability Benefits at the Same Time?

Pennsylvania typically does not allow you to collect unemployment and disability benefits at the same time. What’s more, applying for or receiving both at the same time (or applying for unemployment benefits after being accepted for disability benefits) may jeopardize your ability to receive either. Further, the government may consider this to constitute fraudulent activity since you are telling one government organization that you are ready, willing, and able to work while reporting to another that you cannot work at all due to a physical or mental impairment. The best practice is to talk to a disability attorney to understand how you should proceed. 

What Are the Legal Consequences of Disability and Unemployment Fraud?

People who try to game the system, whether intentionally or unintentionally, may be found guilty of disability fraud. The penalties for fraud range from civil penalties to hefty fines to criminal imprisonment for up to 10 years or a combination of those. An ancillary consequence of this may be that the government automatically disqualifies you from other benefits or requires you to meet extra criteria when applying for benefits in the future. The best practice is to be honest and play fair. The disability and unemployment system is complicated, but people who try to exploit loopholes or take advantage of the system only disadvantage themselves in the long run. 

Krasno Krasno & Onwudinjo Can Help You Secure the Benefits You Need

If you cannot work or are looking for work but cannot find it, it can be an overwhelming experience, leaving you with many questions about how to support yourself while you find a plan that works. Applying for disability or unemployment benefits can help you get the financial help you need, but the application process can be confusing to do alone, especially if you are unfamiliar with the process. 

Krasno Krasno & Onwudinjo has helped over 300,000 people secure unemployment, disability, and workers’ compensation benefits. We understand your struggles and do not charge any upfront fees to handle these claims. Instead, we charge a contingency fee, which means we only recover unless and until you get the compensation you need. Our team includes Stephen Shamberg, who has over a decade of experience helping people apply for and receive disability benefits. 

If you have questions about applying for disability or unemployment benefits, contact our team today by calling 844-243-4843 or using our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. 

Glossary of Technical Terms

  • Base year: The first four of the five most recently completed three-month quarters before you applied for unemployment. This is used to determine eligibility for Pennsylvania unemployment benefits.
  • SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance): A federal disability benefits program for workers who have a disability and have accumulated sufficient lifetime and recent work credits to qualify for disability benefits.
  • SSI: (Supplemental Security Income): A federal disability benefits program for people who have not earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI, but qualify for disability benefits based on financial need and disability.
  • Social Security Impairment Listing: A listing of certain medical conditions, along with specified severity of symptoms, clinical findings, and laboratory tests, that the SSA assumes cause total disability, without looking into the question of whether you are actually able to work. These conditions include lung cancer, chronic heart failure, and bipolar disorder.
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