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SSDI- Do I have to be seeking employment to qualify?

Recently on our forum a user asked if they had to be seeking unemployment to get SSDI benefits. To answer this question we will review what the difference is between unemployment benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and how seeking employment or working part-time can jeopardize, rather than help your SSDI application.



Unemployment benefits


Unemployment benefits are wage compensation paid to workers who lose their employment due to lay-offs. To qualify for unemployment benefits the employee must meet general requirements: working for a set period of time and earning a pre-determined wage. The amount of unemployment paid is based on the earnings and quarters worked. State payment amounts vary.

Many employees will not qualify for unemployment benefits including self-employed workers and workers who are part-time or temporary. Workers who have been voluntarily separated from their jobs, who were not available to work, or who were fired due to misconduct also will not qualify for unemployment.

To receive unemployment you generally must be actively seeking employment and you are claiming that you are willing and able to work. This differs substantially from a disability claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)


Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI is provided to disabled workers, who are unable to work for at least 12 continuous months due to a severe mental or physical health condition. SSDI applicants have generally worked until they cannot work anymore.

So when would should someone file for disability benefits? Claimants would only file for disability benefits if they were 100% disabled and unable to perform what the SSA refers to as substantial gainful activity.

So if you compare the two programs you can immediately see the issue: either you are so disabled you cannot work or you are health, willing and able to work but you cannot find a job.

If you are able to work but cannot find a job the SSA, to put it bluntly, will not care. The only thing they will evaluate when you submit your disability application is whether or not your mental or physical health condition is so severe you cannot work.

Working part-time and applying for SSDI benefits


So, to answer the claimantÂ’s question. If you are seeking SSDI benefits you may be able to work VERY part-time, as we will discuss below, but if you are seeking full-time employment than the argument would be that you are not disabled and you do not qualify for SSDI benefits.

Now, there are two more issues which should be addressed. First, many claimants ask if they can work part-time. I have written several blogs about this in the past and the most simplistic answer is that if you are working and earning too much money or you are working too many hours your application will be automatically denied.

Now, the second issue is that workers, who have not worked enough in the past and earned sufficient work credits, will not qualify for SSDI benefits. So if you are seeking full-time employment AND applying for SSDI you will most likely be denied, if you have not worked enough in the past, you will also be denied SSDI benefits.