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Social Security Mailbox

Can I Collect Social Security and Unemployment at the Same Time?

Eligible recipients can collect both in most states

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Q. I'm 65 and my company has just given me a notice of layoff. Can I collect Social Security retirement benefits and unemployment benefits at the same time?

A. Probably you can. Here are the two basic reasons why:

  • Any benefits you get from unemployment insurance will not reduce your Social Security payments. That's because Social Security does not count unemployment benefits as earnings. So the benefits will not push you closer to earnings ceilings that trigger cuts in Social Security benefits for people ages 62 to 66.
  • In most states, getting Social Security will not reduce your unemployment benefits (which are administered by state governments). According to Rick McHugh, staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project in Ann Arbor, Mich., only Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota and South Dakota reduce the jobless benefits for this reason.

However, the Minnesota rule does not apply to all cases.

In recent years, AARP and the National Employment Law Project have been working to persuade states to repeal laws that limit unemployment benefits for people getting Social Security. Many states did so.

But in South Dakota, the legislature made a 2006 repeal conditional on the state's unemployment trust fund reserves reaching $30 million — and because they never did, the old approach remains in effect.

Get in touch with your state's unemployment agency to find out full details of jobless benefits available to you. You can locate the agency on the Career One Stop Pathways to Career Success website, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Stan Hinden, a former columnist for The Washington Post, wrote How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire. Have a question for the Social Security Mailbox? Check out the archive. If you don't find your answer there, send a query.

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Jonathan Peterson, Social Security expert and author of Social Security for Dummies, answers questions about when to take your benefit and how Social Security works.

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