Can I Apply for Social Security Disability and Unemployment Benefits?

Massachusetts had the highest unemployment rate in the nation in June 2020—17.4% of the workforce remained out of work as the COVID-19 crisis continued to devastate the nation. Employees in the leisure, hospitality, and restaurant industries were particularly hard hit.

Unemployment GraphOther New England states also suffered significant rates of unemployment. In June 2020, New Hampshire ranked 39th in the country with an unemployment rate of 11.8% and Rhode Island ranked 40th in the nation with an unemployment rate of 12.4%. Maine faired the best of the New England States with an unemployment rate of 6.6%, and Vermont and Connecticut had unemployment rates of 9.4% and 9.8%, respectively.

Many people are left wondering how to pay their bills and put food on their tables. Unemployment will help many people who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 crisis. Social Security disability will continue to help eligible workers. However, workers are not typically eligible for unemployment benefits and Social Security disability at the same time because of the different eligibility criteria for each program.

Unemployment Eligibility

Unemployment insurance exists to protect workers who are laid off through no fault of their own. If your employer closed or downsized its workforce and you lost your job, then you may be eligible for unemployment benefits.

To receive unemployment benefits, you must:

  • Have been employed for a certain amount of time and earned a certain amount of money
  • Be ready and able to work
  • Actively look for work

Each state provides a certain number of weeks of unemployment assistance. In Massachusetts, for example, unemployment benefits typically run for up to 30 weeks or until you find a job. However, due to the COVID-19 crisis, the federal government has extended the unemployment coverage period for an additional 13 weeks.

Social Security Disability Eligibility

Social Security disability, like unemployment insurance, is a federal program for people who are out of work. As is the case with unemployment insurance, you must have worked for a certain amount of time and earned a certain amount of money to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.

That’s where the eligibility criteria similarities end, however. While you must be ready, able, and willing to work to receive unemployment insurance benefits, you must be disabled and unable to work to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

Generally, you are eligible for Social Security disability if you are unable to make a certain amount of money (or engage in substantial gainful activity) because of your disability and your disability is expected to last for at least 12 months or cause your death.

The application process for Social Security disability is significantly longer and more complicated than it is for unemployment benefits. While you can file for either type of benefit on your own, it is often advantageous to work with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer if you are filing for disability benefits.

What to Talk About With Your Social Security Disability Lawyer

Generally, you are not eligible for Social Security disability if you lost your job due to a pandemic or for any other reason. However, if the pandemic or an illness or injury, has resulted in your complete and permanent mental or physical disability, then you should talk to an experienced Social Security disability lawyer about your eligibility.

If you are disabled and meet Social Security disability eligibility criteria, then there are benefits to applying for Social Security disability rather than unemployment. Social Security disability doesn’t limit the number of weeks that you can receive benefits, although your continued eligibility is subject to review.

We encourage you to learn more about your benefits if you are disabled. Please contact us today by phone or through this website to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our Boston area Social Security disability lawyers.

We will be happy to provide you with a phone appointment. Even before the current pandemic, we set up our office so that we can represent you effectively without you having to leave your home. Today that is more important than ever, and we continue to provide exceptional legal services safely for all of our clients.

Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation.


John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer
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