How do we know if we qualify for disability or unemployment?


Q. My family is going through rough times right now. My father was on unemployment and was the breadwinner for his family but due to a heart attack, he has been in the hospital for about two weeks and doctors are still working on him. I know he can apply for disability, but since he is on unemployment, should I stop certifying and apply for disability? I do not want him to get in trouble. He is a low income family of three with under $30,000 in gross income.
— Trying to help

A. We’re sorry to hear about your father’s illness and we hope that he is feeling better.

There are a number of different types of disability benefits that he may be able to apply for depending on whether he is able to return to work after he recovers.

New Jersey has a temporary disability benefit that your family should look into, said Claudia Mott, a certified financial planner with Epona Financial Solutions in Basking Ridge.

She said it requires that he became unable to work more than 14 days after his last day of employment.

“Typically, those that qualify will have the same payment amount that they receive through unemployment,” she said. “The total amount of benefit that can be received is one-and-a-half times the maximum benefit amount of the initial unemployment claim. In essence, this might extend his payments beyond what would have been received through regular unemployment.”

At the federal level, those who are disabled may qualify for two different benefits that are overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA), she said.

If it appears that your father will not be able to return to work, he may want to begin the application process for one of these benefits as there is a five-month waiting period and applications can take quite some time to get approval, Mott said.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides payments to those who qualify medically, have amassed the necessary work history within a recent time frame and paid Social Security taxes on their earnings, Mott said. Those who meet the same disability qualifications but fall below certain thresholds for income and assets may qualify to receive payments through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, she said.

Legally, it is possible to receive both unemployment and Social Security disability insurance in New Jersey, Mott said. But the requirements to qualify for these benefits are in conflict with one another, she said.

“Certifying for unemployment requires answering questions about actively seeking work and being able and available to work,” she said. “Qualifying for SSDI typically means you are unable to work. It would be up to your father to explain why he remains eligible to receive unemployment but is applying for disability benefits as well.”

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This story was originally published on July 16, 2021. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.