Can Older Employees Draw Unemployment Benefits and Social Security Retirement?

As individuals approach retirement age, many find themselves grappling with the decision of whether to continue working or fully retire. The prospect of job loss in such a scenario can raise questions about eligibility for unemployment benefits, especially when one is already receiving or scheduled to receive Social Security retirement benefits.

Understanding Unemployment Benefits in Virginia:

The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) administers unemployment benefits in the state, providing financial assistance to eligible individuals who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. To determine eligibility, the VEC considers various factors, including the claimant’s work history, reason for separation from employment, and other earned income. Regardless of age, to receive unemployment benefits, the potential worker also must be able to work, available to work, and actively seeking work.

Earned Income vs. Social Security Retirement:

Social Security is a federal program that provides financial assistance to retirees based on their lifetime contributions. Regardless of their retirement status, workers are eligible to draw their Social Security retirement benefits once they reach their qualified retirement age.

The Virginia Employment Commission considers other earned income when determining eligibility and benefit amounts for unemployment benefits. Other earned income can include wages, severance benefits, secondary jobs, or other compensation received for work performed. In most cases, unemployment benefits will be offset by other earned income. However, under Virginia Code Section 60.2-604, the weekly benefit amount payable to an individual for any week is not reduced by any amount of Social Security Act or Railroad Retirement Act retirement benefits for that week. This distinction allows individuals over their qualified retirement age to draw both unemployment and regular social security retirement benefits if they lose their job and still want to return to the workforce.

Can You Draw Unemployment Benefits if You Resign From Your Job?

If you quit or otherwise leave a job voluntarily, an employee must prove “good cause” in order to receive unemployment benefits. However, an employee who is forced to resign is not deemed to have left work voluntarily when the employee had no real option to return to the job.

By statute, “good cause” does not include leaving work to become self-employed or to accompany a spouse to a new locality (unless it relates to a military transfer). General dissatisfaction with a job is not good cause. To establish “good cause,” the employee must show (1) that he or she suffers from an objectively reasonable job dispute or other conflict that serves as a necessary and compelling reason to leave employment; and (2) that he or she has exhausted all steps to resolve any conflict that would be taken by a someone desirous of retaining their employment. For example, an employee who is troubled by a conflict with a co-worker first would be expected to pursue some resolution by reporting the behavior to a supervisor or human resource office.

“Good cause” is determined on a case-by-case basis, but may include situations such as severe harassment or discrimination, non-payment of wages or significant cuts in pay, illegal or unsafe working conditions, family care obligations, or personal medical reasons. However, if your medical condition prevents you from working for any employer, you will not meet the VEC’s other requirement that you are otherwise available for work. When dealing with medical conditions that impact work ability, an employee first should consult with their physician prior to leaving a job. The VEC is more likely to accept a medical cause if your physician advised that your current position was not suitable due to physical or mental limitations.

If you are denied unemployment benefits, you have the right to appeal your claim and present your case at a hearing before an appeals examiner. You also have the right to be represented by an attorney at this hearing.