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Does Applying for Unemployment Mean I'm Ineligible for Disability Benefits?

 Posted on July 30, 2018 in Social Security Disability

Cook County disability benefits attorney, unemployment benefits, disability hearing, disability benefits, unemployment insuranceDisability applicants often find themselves in Catch-22 position. They need income while waiting for Social Security to rule on their claim. However, any action they take to acquire income may be cited by Social Security as proof they are not legally “disabled.”

Appeals Court Rejects Use of Unemployment to Question Applicant's Credibility

This conundrum often comes up with respect to unemployment benefits. Unemployment insurance is designed as a temporary replacement for wages while an individual is looking for work. Yet does this mean that accepting unemployment constitutes an admission that a person is physically and mentally capable of work?

Not necessarily. At least that was the answer given by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals here in Chicago. The Court ordered Social Security to conduct a new disability hearing for an applicant suffering from chronic back pain.

The applicant's back problems dated back to at least 2004. But by 2010 he experienced back pain “most of the time.” The following year, the applicant fell down a flight of stairs. His employer subsequently laid him off so that he could apply for insurance benefits and take time to “figure out what was going on.”

The applicant eventually sought Social Security disability benefits, alleging an “onset date” in 2013. During a formal hearing on the application, an administrative law judge “voiced concern” about the applicant receiving disability benefits after his onset date, according to the Seventh Circuit. Indeed, the ALJ said unemployment benefits “evidenced either an intent to return to work as required by state unemployment law or misuse of the law” and “reflected adversely” on the applicant's overall credibility with respect to the extent of his chronic pain.

The Seventh Circuit disagreed with this assessment. It noted that even if an applicant accepts unemployment with the intent to return to work eventually, a “desire to work is not evidence that the claimant has embellished his limitations.” Furthermore, the applicant's own doctor “urged him to shift from seeking a cure to focusing on pain management,” which supported a finding of disability.

On a “more fundamental” level, the appeals court said “the line between disabled and nondisabled can be very difficult to chart accurately.” Given that Social Security law favors people looking for work, it is wrong for an ALJ to “discount a claimant's credibility based on an application for unemployment compensation” without considering the context.

Get Help with Your Social Security Disability Case

There is a common misconception that disability applicants are simply lazy and do not want to work. In most cases just the opposite is true. Individuals often continue to work—or look for work—well past the point where it is medically advisable. Furthermore, they should not be punished by Social Security for doing so. This is why it is important to work with a qualified Cook County disability benefits attorney who can help you present your case to Social Security. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.



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