How to Switch Unemployment Claims to Disability Claims in California

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You can apply for disability benefits in California once you are no longer receiving unemployment compensation. This is because California bars collecting both simultaneously. However, you must qualify for disability to be able to do this, which means you can't work due to a non-work injury. Complete and submit your disability application to the Employment Development Department, either by mail or online.

Who Can Collect Disability

To receive state disability income, or SDI, you must be unable to work because of a disability that wasn't caused by your job, including pregnancy. You can also receive SDI benefits if you have a new child you wish to bond with or because you need to care for an ill family member, such as a spouse or parent. These benefits are known as paid family leave, or PFL, and are part of the SDI program.

Satisfying SDI Eligibility Requirements

California prohibits employees from collecting both SDI and unemployment compensation at the same time. Therefore, you cannot apply for SDI benefits until you are no longer receiving unemployment compensation. In addition, you must be eligible to apply for SDI. This means being unable to perform your job for eight consecutive days, actively seeking employment or experiencing a loss of income because of your disability, and having earned at least $300 in previous earnings from which SDI payroll deductions were taken. You must also be under a doctor's care, and he must confirm your disability. Lastly, you are required to file for disability within 49 days of the date you became disabled.

Application for Disability Benefits

To apply for disability benefits by mail, complete and submit Form DE 2501, Claim for Disability Insurance Benefits, to the Employment Development Department, or EDD. Call EDD at 800-480-3287 to request that the form be mailed to you or download it from the "Online Forms and Publications" page of the EDD's website. Apply for SDI benefits online through the "State Disability Insurance (SDI) Online" page of the EDD's website. Complete "Part A -- Claimant's Statement"; your doctor completes "Part B -- Physician Practitioner's Statement." Your doctor can complete Part B electronically if you apply online.

Application for Paid Family Leave Benefits

Complete and mail Form DE-2501F, Claim for Paid Family Leave (PFL) Benefits, to EDD if you want to receive PFL benefits or convert your disability benefits to PFL. For example, if you collected disability benefits because you were pregnant, you may wish to convert these benefits to PFL to remain home longer and bond with your new baby. Call EDD to have Form DE-2501F mailed to you or download it from EDD's website. Complete "Part A -- Statement of Claimant" and "Part B -- Bonding Certification." Online applications may be submitted through the "State Disability Insurance (SDI) Online" page of the EDD's website.

About the Author

Based on the West Coast, Mary Jane Freeman has been writing professionally since 1994, specializing in the topics of business and law. Freeman's work has appeared in a variety of publications, including LegalZoom, Essence, Reuters and Chicago Sun-Times. Freeman holds a Master of Science in public policy and management and Juris Doctor. Freeman is self-employed and works as a policy analyst and legal consultant.

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