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Can I collect unemployment benefits and Social Security at the same time?

Yes, you can. Collecting unemployment insurance does not prevent you from receiving Social Security retirement benefits or vice versa. The same holds true for spousal or survivors benefits you claim on the earnings record of a retired or deceased worker.

Receiving both benefits also won’t affect either amount (except for some recipients in Minnesota, for now — see below).

Jobless benefits are not counted as wages under Social Security’s annual earnings limit, which can reduce Social Security benefits for people who claim them before reaching full retirement age and continue to work. Only income from work counts against the earnings test.

In addition, the formerly widespread practice of states deducting money from unemployment benefits if a recipient also received Social Security has been all but eliminated nationwide.

In the early 2000s, 20 states and the District of Columbia had such “Social Security offset” laws, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP). States began repealing them in 2003 amid advocacy efforts on the issue, including from AARP and NELP.

In 2021, Minnesota became the last state to repeal its offset law, but the change does not take effect until July 3, 2022. Until then, some Minnesotans who draw both benefits have their unemployment insurance reduced by half of the amount of your Social Security benefit. The determining factor is when you started collecting Social Security and how long that was before you filed for unemployment. You’ll find details on how it works at the Minnesota unemployment office’s website.

What about Social Security disability benefits?

It is legally permissible to draw Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and unemployment benefits, and neither affects the amount of the other. (Minnesota is the exception in this case as well. While it remains in effect, the state’s partial offset also applies to SSDI.)

However, trying to get both disability and unemployment can be tricky because key criteria for these benefits are fundamentally at odds. To get unemployment, you must be actively looking for work. To get disability, you must be largely unable to work.

Social Security officials weighing disability claims can take into account any receipt of or application for unemployment compensation, and you’ll have to show why the two are not in conflict.

You also can collect unemployment and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the other Social Security-run program that pays benefits to disabled people, but the same caveats apply regarding approval of claims — and in the case of SSI, getting unemployment can reduce your benefit payment.

If you are receiving one of these benefits and considering applying for the other, you may want to contact Social Security or consult a lawyer who specializes in disability claims to discuss your situation.

If you have questions about jobless benefits, contact your state’s unemployment agency.

Keep in mind

  • Retirement payments other than Social Security, such as a pension or 401(k) distribution, may reduce your unemployment compensation.
  • Rules on these deductions differ from state to state. Contact your state’s unemployment office for details.

Updated August 4, 2021