In an unpublished case titled as Ross v. Acrisure, dated August 14, 2014, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the decision of an Ionia Circuit Court decision which had determined that “an individual can qualify for Social Security disability while also being eligible for unemployment benefits.” (The Court of Appeals case number is 315347.)
After examining the facts, the appeals court affirmed the lower court’s decision because “on the facts of this case Plaintiff’s receipt of Social Security disability benefits (SSDI benefits) did not preclude him from asserting that he was willing and able to work for purposes of receiving unemployment benefits.” Please notice that I have underlined the words “on the facts of this case,” because the court did not make a blanket determination that, in all circumstances, an individual can receive Social Security disability benefits and unemployment insurance benefits. It’s very common for courts to limit the holdings in their decisions to the facts before the court, and actually they must do it. The way I read the decision, a different set of facts may very well justify a different result. I will say however, the facts from this case have a lot in common with most of the cases I have seen when this question comes up.
I think what carried the day here is that the Social Security Administration had determined the Plaintiff could work a “full range of work at all exertional levels,” subject to limitations that would prevent him from working a “significant number” of jobs that exist in the national economy, and that would satisfy the definition of “disability” under the Social Security system. The Social Security Administration did not say this Plaintiff could not work anywhere, under any circumstances, but rather based on SSA regulations the claimant met the definition of disability.
This court decision took notice that under the SSA regulations, there would still be some jobs this disabled person could perform. This decision seems to indicate that because there are some jobs the disabled individual could do, he could meet the requirements of the Unemployment Insurance Agency which requires that he be “able to work, available for employment and seeking employment.”
The frightening part about this case is that the Unemployment Agency wanted this disabled individual to repay the $19,486 he had drawn from them. The really frightening part is that the unemployment agency also wanted to impose a $77,944 “fraud” penalty on the disabled individual. Wow! There are not too many people receiving Social Security disability benefits that have $97,426 to repay to the state of Michigan.
This question is bound to come up again. I do not think we’ve heard the last of this from the state. I am posting this on November 7, 2014. Stay tuned.