Orange County Social Security disability advocate

What if I am receiving California unemployment benefits? Can I still qualify for California Social Security disability benefits?

Often people seeking Social Security disability benefits in Orange County and Southern California ask me whether they will be awarded California disability benefits if they are receiving unemployment compensation benefits.

I tell them that the answer depends on various circumstances, including the view of your administrative law judge, what types of work you are capable of performing, and the onset date of your disability.

By collecting California unemployment compensation benefits, you are telling the unemployment people that you are ready, willing and able to work. Because of the apparent conflict between telling one government program you can work and alleging that you are entitled to California disability benefits, it is hard, though not necessarily impossible, to claim benefits from both programs.

If you are in this situation, I want to evaluate the view of the administrative law judge’s position in your case. I may also want to discuss with you whether a later onset date would be appropriate.

The judge’s view in your California Social Security disability case makes a difference in whether you can still qualify for California disability benefits

Among the administrative law judges hearing California Social Security disability cases, there are differing views regarding the receipt of California unemployment compensation benefits during months that a California disability claimant claims to be disabled under the Social Security disability program. There is no statute, regulation or ruling that says a claimant cannot receive California Social Security disability benefits and unemployment for the same period so the result often depends on the view of your judge.

There have been some cases where judges have found there is no conflict between the receipt of California unemployment compensation and an application for California Social Security disability benefits. For example, a claimant who is available only for light work may legitimately receive unemployment compensation benefits, and if the claimant is age 55 or older, the claimant could be found disabled using rules from the Medical-Vocational Guidelines.

However, in most cases judges find a conflict. Some administrative law judges regard receipt of both California disability benefits and unemployment compensation for the same period as double dipping. Those judges will not find a claimant disabled during the time a claimant received California unemployment benefits, even if the claimant’s argument for receiving both benefits is logical. But those same judges may find a claimant disabled the month after unemployment stops.

Other judges regard receipt of California unemployment benefits as proof the claimant could work during the time the claimant was receiving unemployment benefits. Many of these judges expect the claimant to amend his or her alleged onset date (the date a claimant becomes disabled) based on medical worsening, not on when unemployment stopped. However, while most courts view the receipt of unemployment compensation as inconsistent with a claim for disability benefits, they don’t view it as conclusive proof that a claimant is not disabled. Such courts recognize that a claimant’s desire to work does not necessarily mean that a claimant can actually work.

In both of these cases, it is sometimes possible to argue that even though you would have attempted work during the time you were receiving California unemployment compensation benefits (which makes receipt of unemployment compensation benefits legitimate), in retrospect it appears that you would not have been able to sustain work (which provides the basis for the disability claim).

A claimant’s receipt of unemployment compensation is not decisive in a case, but is one of many factors the judge will consider in determining whether the claimant is disabled. An application for unemployment benefits is evidence that must be considered together with all of the medical and other evidence. Often, the underlying circumstances in the case will be of greater relevance than the claimant’s application for and receipt of unemployment benefits. For example, the fact that the person has, during his or her alleged period of disability, applied for jobs with physical demands in excess of the person’s alleged limitations would be a relevant factor that the judge should take into account, particularly if the judge inquired about an explanation for this apparent inconsistency.

For many judges nationwide and here in Orange County, the fact that a claimant was laid off because of a company’s bankruptcy filing, lack of work, or similar reason (rather than being terminated because of inability to do the job) is a bigger problem than receipt of unemployment compensation itself.

Some California judges shrug at receipt of unemployment compensation, viewing it from a “person’s got to live” perspective. These judges do not even ask about receipt of unemployment benefits at the hearing, though they are likely aware of it because the California Social Security Administration has access to unemployment payment information, which usually appears in a claimant’s hearing exhibit file.

The importance of the alleged onset date in your California Social Security disability claim

The onset date is the date you become disabled. If the onset date that is alleged in your original application for California Social Security disability is the date that you were laid off from work, this may also be the date you started getting unemployment benefits.

Because of the conflict between alleging that you are entitled to disability benefits from one California program and telling another government program that you can work, I may want to discuss with you whether a later onset date would be appropriate. In fact, some judges will ask you to amend the alleged onset date to the day after you last received California unemployment compensation benefits.

But before amending the alleged onset date in your claim, I will want to be sure that I understand the situation surrounding your layoff and your work limitations. I will ask you how the alleged onset date was determined. Was it your idea or did a California Social Security Administration claims representative suggest using the last day of work?

As an experienced California Social Security disability advocate, I can help

If you are receiving California unemployment compensation benefits and are applying for California Social Security disability benefits, the assistance of a knowledgeable California Social Security disability advocate may be crucial. I have the experience and knowledge in this area to give you the help that you need through this process.

If you are not already represented by a California Social Security disability lawyer or advocate and want my evaluation of your situation, give me a brief description of your claim using the form to the right.

Or you may e-mail me or call me toll-free at 1-877-538-8222.

Orange County Social Security disability advocate for disability claimants throughout Southern California.