What do you do when you’re unemployed? You either start applying for other jobs or you file for unemployment benefits. In this post I would like to discuss the unemployment income situation for healthcare professionals.
My ex-employer took me off of my shifts which essentially means they let me go. Because I was per diem, they didn’t need to officially fire me. If I was fired then I wouldn’t qualify for any unemployment benefits. But we’ll get to that later.
Summary of this post: The unemployment coverage you have as a physician employee entitles you to $604/week or $2,416/month for up to 6 months in the state of Oregon – not even enough to cover your student loan payments. But probably enough to pay for food and fend off the debt collectors for 26 weeks.
You Cannot Collect Unemployment Benefits If ….
If you did something illegal or wrong at your job that led you to be fired then you cannot claim unemployment.
This benefit is reserved for those who were laid off to no fault of their own. At least that’s how it’s worded everywhere.
There are exceptions to the rule since each state manages their own unemployment procedures. However, if you were let get for discriminatory reasons or for no valid reason, then you can contest your case and still qualify for unemployment benefits.
The Money Comes From …
The funds to pay you come from both federal and state sources. It’s not a direct 50:50 split but it’s quite costly for states which is why there are questionable tactics for states to push unemployed individuals into disability – which comes almost entirely from federal sources.
The funding for unemployment benefit is secured by taxing employers as well as those who are self-employed.
Benefits Available to The Unemployed
Usa.gov lists an extensive list of unemployment benefits available to those who have lost their job. There are many reasons why a person may be unemployed. Anything from a disability to wrongful termination.
1. Assistance finding a job
Think of this as a free career counselor and headhunter. They will do whatever they can to put you in a new position.
2. Self-employment assistance
If you weren’t employed but had a business and no longer have your business then the SEA program can help you get back on your feet. They offer everything from helping you start a new business to the self-employment equivalent of unemployment income.
3. COBRA health coverage
We all know what COBRA health coverage is so I won’t get into it.
You might be unemployed because of a disability. As a physician I’ve had many patients who were on permanent disability from diabetes to back pain to quadriplegia. This breaks down into short-term and long-term disability, separated by a span of 2 years.
5. Workers’ Compensation
Same thing as disability but the funds come from the employer’s insurance carrier as opposed to from the social security system.
6. Wrongful termination
You can get free or low-cost legal counsel to represent you in case your unemployment stems from discriminatory or illegal practices from your employer. The whistleblower protection act comes into play here as well.
Each state runs their own welfare program based on federally set guidelines. Once you are unable to find a job and hit the poverty level, you get switched into this category and would be able to take advantage of the resources from the welfare department.
Duration Of Unemployment Benefits
Assuming that as a healthcare professional you can get by on $2,400/month, it’s only available to your for 26 weeks. After that you have the option of extending it but that decision is state-specific and even then it’s limited to a few more weeks.
If you can earn a little money during the time you are unemployment from some consulting work or side-work, you’ll have to report that income and it will be deducted from your unemployment benefits.
The Unemployment Benefits Process
After losing your job you would go to your state’s unemployment website and fill out a profile. There is a ton of information that will be asked of you and they will assess whether you qualify.
After you fill out the application, you have to wait for them to process it which takes a couple of weeks. They will then get back to you and tell you how much money you can qualify for.
Next, in order to get the money, you have to go to a local office and present some more information. You will be interviewed to determine the exact cause of your unemployment.
The information you provided will then be compared to what they gather after contacting your ex-employer. If you’ve made it this far and qualified then you should be able to get your first bi-weekly check.
In order to continue to qualify, you have to log in every week to your state’s unemployment website and answer questions and demonstrate that you are actively searching for a job.
Speaking of searching for a job, you have to create online accounts on the government-run employment websites and meet with a person who is assigned to help you find a job.
Consequences Of Accepting Unemployment Benefits
From my research I couldn’t find any reason that accepting unemployment benefits would hurt you in the future.
- tt doesn’t get reported publicly
- it’s not part of your credit history
- it’s not discoverable in a background check
Despite this, my spidey senses tell me that it’s a better idea to not use this option unless absolutely necessary. I recall seeing this question pop up numerous times on applications that I’ve filled out.
If $15,700 is all that’s offered me as a physician then it’s perhaps better to add that stash to my emergency funds and forgo the unemployment process.
My Personal Experience With The Unemployment Department
I’m not exactly sure why I applied for unemployment. It was mostly out of curiosity. The process was incredibly humane. I didn’t feel the data collection was intrusive or anyone was judgemental.
How far did I get?
I got to this point:
This is a picture of the benefits sheet stating how much money I would qualify for based on my recent income history.
As you can see, the most I would qualify for a week would be $604 – pretax. And my total compensation would be $15,704 which is $604/wk for 26 weeks.
I essentially stopped here. I don’t think $604/week will make a big difference in my personal finances. It certainly won’t cover the cost of the legal fees dealing with the medical board.