Should My Child Claim Unemployment Benefits? Will His Government Benefits Be Affected?

Many people with special needs are not able to work at a conventional job. However, increasingly many are employed for several hours a week. Those that were working at the start of this year may have been laid-off, furloughed, or outright fired during the economic downturn we are experiencing as a result of the pandemic shut-down.

If you know a benefit recipient who has lost employment and is considering applying for unemployment compensation, you must consider these two pressing questions:

A. Whether someone who is receiving government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Medicaid is eligible to apply for unemployment compensation, and

B. If a SSI and/or Medicaid recipient receives unemployment compensation (especially with the Federal “add on” of $600 per week, will their SSI and/or Medicaid benefits be affected?

At Rubin Law, we limit our practice for legal and future planning for clients with a special needs family member. Our mission is to sort through the maze of rules to protect our clients and the benefits they receive.

Some of our clients want to encourage their special needs family member to work for various reasons such as increased social interaction, dexterity skills, pride in completing a job, and earning some spending cash. However, it’s very important to understand the interplay between employment income, unemployment compensation, and means-based government benefits.

What is the Monthly Payment Amount Limit for SSI?

According to the Social Security Administration, SSI calculates the monthly payment amount based on the “federal benefit rate” (FBR). In 2020, that amount is $783 per month for individuals. However, if there is countable income, this monthly benefit rate is reduced by that amount.

What is Countable Income?

Countable income is the amount left over after:

  • Deducting all amounts that are not income; and
  • Applying all legally possible exclusions to the items that are income.

Countable income is set monthly and will be subtracted from the maximum benefit amount to determine the recipient’s eligibility and to calculate their actual monthly payment amount.

Are Unemployment Benefits Considered Countable Income?

Unemployment benefits are considered unearned income and will reduce SSI payments dollar for dollar after an exclusion for the first $20. Since the current SSI monthly payment amount is $783 for an individual, if the benefit recipient receives unemployment compensation over $803, he will be ineligible for SSI benefits because he will have excess income.

Keep in mind that to qualify for Unemployment Compensation the applicant needs to be actively searching for work. Depending on the specific circumstances, this may not be possible for a worker with special needs.

Please note the Medicaid does not count the $600 Federal add-on as income for eligibility purposes.  However, if not spent in the calendar month in which it is received it may become a resource the next month unless moved to an exempt trust (a type of special needs trust ADD LINK On PAYBACK TRUSTS) or ABLE Account.

How to Navigate the Ever-changing Benefit Laws

We know how critically important it is to understand the complicated rules controlling who qualifies for government benefits and how those benefits can be compromised. If one of your family members is receiving special needs benefits, you can’t afford to make a mistake which could eliminate those benefits.

Count on Rubin Law to answer your specific questions and help you create the best plan for your loved one, including receiving the maximum amount of benefits possible. Call us today at (866) To-Rubin, send us an email at: or fill out our contact form and we’ll be in touch soon to discuss your particular needs. Don’t make any decisions before you check with the experts at Rubin Law.