Collecting unemployment while off work for medical and mental health reasons is rarely possible when you have a temporary disability.
Therefore, apply for disability benefits instead of “medical unemployment” while you cannot work to keep your family finances afloat and find alternatives if you do not have this coverage.
Then, after you recover, you could qualify for unemployment if you live in a state that includes health conditions as a “good cause reason” to quit or suffer job termination.
People dealing with cancer, heart disease, injuries, surgery, COVID, stress, and depression often face an extended period without pay.
Unemployment for Medical Reasons
You cannot collect unemployment if you are out of work for medical reasons because you fail the first of three universal criteria.
- Physically able to work
- Available for duty
- Actively seeking a new job
Therefore, you need to identify alternatives to replace lost income.
How to Apply
Apply for medical unemployment benefits by completing a disability claim form and submitting it to the responsible authority (insurance company or government agency). The problem is that most people do not have coverage, so you need a second alternative.
Free grant money for bills and personal use is the primary alternative to applying for medical unemployment benefits via disability insurance. More people qualify because a sustained loss of income while out of work drops many below federal poverty guidelines.
Instead of completing a single medical unemployment form, tap into various government programs helping low-income families. Find assistance with everyday bills for home repair, medical care, utilities (gas, electric, & water), groceries, housing, and phone.
Apply for medical unemployment via temporary state disability if mandatory where you worked, not where you live. However, only seven states have a program: California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington.
If you work in one of the forty-three other states, you are out of luck.
The medical unemployment claim form may have three necessary signatures.
- The covered person validating that all statements are truthful
- A doctor verifying the health-related condition prevents you from working
- Your employer confirming that you are no longer earning income
Social Security Disability
Apply for medical unemployment through Social Security Disability (SSDI) if you expect your health condition to keep you from work for at least twelve months.
You are out of luck if you can physically resume working sooner.
Complete the medical unemployment form found on SSA.gov to start the process. Your doctor will need to describe your medical condition in detail. Your local disability determinations office will adjudicate your claim and communicate their decision in writing.
Due to Surgery
Likewise, you cannot get unemployment benefits if you are out of work due to surgery. During the post-operative recovery period, you could be ineligible for two causes.
- FMLA covers surgery and protects your job
- You are physically incapable of work while recovering
Financial help paying for surgery might do more to assist with lost income during your post-operative recovery period. You may not be able to replace earnings, but cutting expenses goes a long way to keeping your budget in balance.
You can file for unemployment benefits if you have a heart attack, but do not expect the state office to approve your claim. Recovery from cardiac arrest makes you ineligible for the same two reasons.
- Heart attack is a severe illness under FMLA
- You are physically incapable of work while recovering
Grants to help pay medical bills after a heart attack might prove more fruitful than applying for unemployment that you are ineligible to receive. Once again, the lost earnings while sidelined means that you might qualify for other benefits for low-income families.
Finally, your ability to collect unemployment if you are off due to Covid-19 is subject to change as the pandemic waxes and wanes. Federal and state rules change just as the virus evolves (Delta, Omicron, BA-2, etc.).
- Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), signed by President Trump, expired before publication
- The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed by President Biden, might be partially active in your state
Apply for Covid-related unemployment benefits through your state office, which administers claims for the people who work in their jurisdiction. You may be eligible even while physically unable to perform your job duties.
Unemployment for Mental Health Reasons
If you quit your job because of mental health, it will be difficult to get unemployment benefits because you will have two strikes against you.
- You are incapable of working when thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and moods prevent you from performing your job duties
- Voluntary resignation makes you ineligible for benefits unless your state supports “good cause reasons” to terminate employment
Quit for Stress
For example, getting unemployment if you quit your job due to stress is a long-shot bet. Of course, your mental health must first improve enough to make you able and available for work before filing a viable claim, and your state must have a lenient good cause reason definition.
Stress by itself is unlikely to meet the standard for a good cause reason to quit. In writing, a doctor may have to state that the anxiety worsened a medical condition, making it impossible to continue with your job duties.
Also, stress is a more viable justification for those who worked in one of only eight states that supports an employees’ health condition as a good cause reason to quit.
Quit for Depression
Getting unemployment benefits if you quit your job due to depression will also prove challenging. Once again, your mental health will first have to improve enough to be able and available for work before you will be eligible, and your state must support a lenient good cause reason.
Clinical depression is a debilitating condition that could make it impossible to get out of bed in the morning. A doctor or psychiatrist will have to state in writing that your depression prevented you from performing your job duties.
Social Security Disability pays for depression based on how much money you contributed over the years in FICA payroll taxes. File a claim if your mood disorder and profound feeling of sadness will keep you out of the job market for at least twelve months.
Unemployment for Medical Leave
Once again, you cannot collect unemployment benefits while on medical leave because you fail at least one of two universal criteria, and a third factor may enter the equation.
- You are physically unable to work if disabled
- You are unavailable to work if caring for a family member
- You still have a job if covered by FMLA
Family Medical Leave
You cannot collect unemployment during a family medical leave when covered by FMLA because you still have a job. This rule holds for approximately half of workers in the USA.
You can get paid during FMLA other ways, but filing an unemployment claim while legal job protections are in force is not a viable avenue for financial support.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides twelve weeks of unpaid time off for eligible employees working for covered employers, absent for a qualifying reason.
- Covered Employers
- All public (government) agencies and departments
- All public and private primary and secondary schools
- Companies with 50+ employees working within a 75-mile radius
- Eligible Employees
- 12 months of tenure with the company or agency
- 1,250 hours worked over the preceding 12 months
- Qualifying Reasons
- Care of a family member with a severe health condition
- The birth of a baby or placement of an adopted or foster child
- Military deployments
Unpaid Medical Leave
You cannot collect unemployment during unpaid medical leave solely because your employer chooses not to support your regular compensation while you are off from work caring for a family member or recovering from a disability.
For instance, you cannot get temporary unemployment during unpaid maternity leave because new mothers fail one or both of the universal requirements.
- Mom is physically unable to work in three scenarios
- Pregnancy disability due to complications before birth
- Recovery from childbirth (labor and delivery)
- Postpartum disorders (depression) delaying her return to work
- Mom is unavailable to work in two scenarios
- While bonding with her newborn baby
- While caring for a premature or low birth weight infant