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How Does Unemployment Affect SSDI?

Last updated: April 12, 2023

Most people who collect Social Security benefits do not want to lose their monthly payments, which serve as a partial substitute for income. That is why many Americans who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are hesitant to file for unemployment benefits. This could mainly be because the applicants may be worried their applications will contradict each other. 

In order to understand how unemployment affects SSDI, let's first take a look at how the requirements for the two applications differ. 

How Unemployment Affects Your SSDI Benefits

Since unemployment benefits are considered "unearned income" by the Social Security Administration, these benefits are unlikely to affect your SSDI benefits if you are not working. However, there is a catch. 

While it is legally possible to obtain both unemployment and SSDI payments, the process is complicated. When you file for unemployment benefits, you declare that you are capable of working but that you have lost your job due to no fault of your own and that you are actively looking for work. 

You certify that you cannot work at a substantial gainful level when you apply for disability benefits. There are various instances where someone may be receiving unemployment benefits and becoming disabled as a result of their unemployment or being unable to perform while employed owing to a work-related illness or accident. These people can apply to both programs, but they must actively seek a job in order to keep their unemployment benefits.

Can You Collect Both SSDI And Unemployment Benefits Together?

Individuals may be eligible for both unemployment and Social Security benefits under one of three circumstances:

  • You are under the age of 62, now receiving SSI benefits, actively seeking a job, not retired, and not getting retirement benefits;
  •  You are under the age of 62, currently receiving SSI benefits, actively seeking work, not retired, and not collecting retirement benefits; or
  • You're disabled to the point where you can't work full-time and are on SSDI, but you're still seeking a job to supplement your income.

SSDI benefits will only be paid as long as your monthly wages do not reach the maximum amount allowed. The cap will be $1,260 in 2020 (or $2,110 if you are visually impaired/blind). Your SSDI benefits will end once you find work and earn more than that amount.


Claiming disability benefits like the SSDI and unemployment benefits is a tricky position to be in, as each one’s requirements contradict the other. However, there are a couple of scenarios where you can, in fact, qualify for both — you are incapacitated to the point where you cannot work, but you're still actively seeking employment. 

Head to njddc.org for more information on disabilities and how to avail of the different programs set in place by the government. Check out resources such as how to calculate your social security disability payments for more SSDI benefits information! 

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Cheri Hermanson
Cheri leads our team of writers in producing the best quality content there is regarding society and disability, most especially those that helps ease the quality of life for our differently-abled loved ones.
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