Can I get both unemployment and Social Security disability benefits?

Yes, it is possible for you to receive both unemployment benefits and Social Security disability benefits (SSDI).

Unemployment and SSDI benefits provide financial support to those who are not working, but the rules for these programs differ greatly.  There is a contradiction in applying for and receiving both unemployment benefits and SSDI benefits.  When you apply for unemployment benefits, you are stating that you lost your job through no fault of your own, that you are ABLE to work and are actively looking for work. When you apply for SSDI, you are stating that you are UNABLE to do any substantial gainful work activity.

Because of the length of time between applying for SSDI and getting a disability decision, and the uncertainty of unemployment extensions, you may decide to take a practical approach and file for SSDI while on unemployment.  One example is when a person who was laid off due to COVID-19 applies for and receives unemployment benefits. While receiving unemployment and actively looking for work, the person decides to apply for SSDI due to a worsened physical condition and then becomes approved for SSDI while still receiving unemployment benefits.

Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment provides payments for a temporary period while you search for another job.  To be eligible for unemployment, you must:

  • be a U.S. citizen or be legally authorized to work in the U.S.
  • have worked long enough to establish a benefit account.
  • have lost a job through no fault of their own.
  • be able and available to work and actively seeking employment.

Eligibility requirements for unemployment compensation vary from state to state.  For more information, go to

Unemployment benefits are taxable, and any other source of income a person receives while receiving unemployment benefits must be reported to the state unemployment agency.

SSDI Benefits

To qualify for monthly SSDI benefits, you must have worked long enough in jobs covered by Social Security to be “insured”.  In addition, you must have a severe physical or mental impairment(s) that have lasted or be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months, or are expected to result in death, and those impairment(s) must prevent the person from doing any substantial gainful work activity.

Collecting Unemployment While Receiving Disability

There are some situations in which a person who is already receiving SSDI may be eligible for unemployment benefits since the Social Security Administration encourages people receiving SSDI to try to work and even offers work incentives.  Two important work incentives are:

  • Trial Work Period (TWP) – During the TWP, you can work and still keep your full monthly SSDI check.  The TWP lasts for 9 months in a 60-month timeframe.
  • Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) – After the TWP, there is an EPE during which you can receive your full SSDI check for any month on which you were not able to earn substantial gainful activity. The EPE lasts for up to a 36-month timeframe.

For more information about these and other work incentives, as well as other work options, see and go to

If you are receiving SSDI payments and find a job and work for an amount of time to establish your eligibility for unemployment benefits before being laid off, you are still entitled to SSDI under a work incentive program and you may also be qualify for unemployment compensation.

Contact a Social Security Disability Representative for Help

A Social Security disability representative can give you the advice and assistance you need.  Contact an experienced Social Security disability representative at Cardea Disability, LLC at 334-440-6261 or visit our website at


Can I Work While I Am Receiving Disability Benefits?

Yes, you can do a limited amount of work and still get disability benefits.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) encourages work activity and there are special program rules and work incentives that help you try to return to work while still receiving monthly disability payments.  

If you try to work but have to stop working because of your disability, SSA generally considers it an unsuccessful work attempt. However, if you are able to do substantial gainful work, you are not disabled. The presumed substantial gainful work earnings amount in 2019 is $1,220 per month ($2,040 if you’re blind). There are specific rules for self-employment.  SSA may deduct from your earned income any impairment related work expenses you pay for certain items, such as equipment and services, that you need in order to work.  SSA may also deduct the value of any subsidy, which is extra support that an employer provides you to do your work.  Contact SSA to let them know that you are working to avoid problems, such as being overpaid. Read the SSA publication Working While Disabled for more information. Since the rules are complicated, consult with a Social Security professional before you begin working to know how working may affect your benefits. 

Working While Receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a financial needs-based program; the rules for this program allow you to continue to work for a limited time while you are disabled.  You may continue to receive SSI payments until your earnings, added with any other income, exceed the SSI income limits. When you work, your SSI benefits are adjusted based on your income after a few deductions.  Your first $65 in earnings are disregarded and, after that, your SSI benefits are reduced by $1 for every $2 earned.  Your first $20 in unearned income is also disregarded and, after that, SSI benefits are reduced dollar-for-dollar. It may be the case that due to your earnings, your monthly SSI check will be substantially reduced or you may not be eligible for an SSI check some months. 

Whether you are working or not, SSA conducts regularly scheduled continuing disability medical reviews for those receiving SSI, unless you are participating in the Ticket to Work program. 

 Working While Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is the program you pay into when you do qualifying work activity.  Your SSDI benefit amount is based on past earnings. SSA has work incentives that encourage you to try working again. Two important work incentives under SSDI are:

  • Trial Work Period (TWP) – During the TWP, you can work and still keep your full monthly SSDI check. The TWP lasts for 9 months in a 60-month timeframe.
  • Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE) – After the TWP, there is an EPE during which you can receive your full SSDI check for any month on which you were not able to earn substantial gainful activity. The EPE lasts for up to a 36-month timeframe.

Once you complete the EPE, SSA will begin conducting continuing disability reviews for medical improvement.

For more information about these and other work incentives, as well as other work options, see and go to 

Talk to a Social Security Representative

Before you decide to work while receiving Social Security disability benefits, consult with an experienced Social Security representative at Cardea Disability, LLC. Call us today at 334-440-6261 or use our contact form at to send us a message.

By: Michele Schaefer, Cardea Disability, LLC

Published on November 25, 2019

Do I need to be fully insured to get Social Security benefits?

Yes, as a general rule you must be fully insured under the Social Security program before most benefits can be paid.  That means you must have worked both long enough and recently enough to qualify for disability benefits.  In most cases, you must be fully insured and have earned at least 20 credits during the last 10 years.

Exceptions apply for those who are disabled and under age 31.  In those situations, you have disability insured status and can get Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) with fewer than 20 credits.  For example, if you are disabled before age 24, you generally need 6 credits in the last three years before you became disabled.

Make sure that your earnings records are accurate by comparing your earnings on your Wage and Tax statement (W-2) to the earnings record on your Social Security statement. You can verify your earnings on a ”my Social Security” account.  For more information, go to

How do I become insured for Social Security benefits?

You earn work credits and become insured for Social Security retirement, SSDI disability, and survivor’s coverage for you and your family when federal taxes are withheld from your covered gross work earnings.  This federal tax is called “FICA” for the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, a law that funds both Social Security and Medicare.  Both you and your employer pay a portion of the total FICA tax.  In 2019, you must earn $1,360 in covered earnings to get one credit and $5,440 to get the four credits for the year.  For more information, refer to this SSA publication on “How You Earn Credits” at

There are a few wage earners who are not covered by FICA, such as railroad employees who are covered by a separate pension system.

Self-employed workers are required by law to pay taxes for Social Security and Medicare through “SECA” which is the “Self-Employment Contributions Act”.  Self-employed workers pay both the worker and employer contributions. The employer’s share of the tax counts as a deductible business expense.

Can I still get Social Security disability benefits if I am disabled but not insured?

Although you can only get SSDI benefits if you are insured, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if you are disabled.  SSI is a needs-based program for which insured status is not required.  You must meet income and resources limits to be eligible for SSI.

Talk to a Social Security Representative

Talk to a Social Security representative before you apply for Social Security disability benefits. A representative can help you know your insured status for SSDI, and can provide you with information about income and resource limits for SSI.

Disability representatives at Cardea Disability, LLC are available to talk to you about your case. 

For a free consultation, call us today at 334-440-6261 or use our website contact form to send us a message.