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The Three AAAs of Claiming Unemployment Benefits: Able, Available and, Actively Seeking Work

Updated on November 28, 2017
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Missing Link is originally from rural Ohio. He currently lives in Hillsboro, OR. with his Wife and two Sons.

The Three AAAs

Once you have a valid unemployment claim established it is then up to you to make your weekly claim. You do this so you can get your weekly benefit payment. To receive your weekly payment you must be able to work, available for work and, actively seeking work (The Three AAAs). If you are missing any one of these components your claim will have to be adjudicated. If the decision goes against you you will not get paid for that week.

How does the unemployment office know if you satisfy the three AAAs? The system relies upon you to report it based on how you answer your weekly claim questions. You can be dishonest and answer in a way to make sure you will not be funneled into adjudication but this is risky. If the unemployment department finds out you have have been dishonest your claim will be forwarded to Fraud and all kinds of bad things can happen to you i.e. loss of benefits, having to repay benefits already received, fines, being in newspaper or on TV, going to jail, etc.


If you are unable to work cause you were sick for a day or two you will be ok. If you are in the hospital you are not able to work. If you are in the hospital for the majority of the week you will not get your weekly payment. If you are at home with pneumonia and unable to work for the majority of the week you will not get paid. Many women who have a baby are not able to work for the majority of the week of the delivery...and will be denied for that week.

Your benefits will stay ceased until you can prove the situation has changed. Let's say you were off work for two weeks due to a badly sprained ankle. Then, a doctor releases you back to work because you are much improved. You then just call up the unemployment office and let them know you are now able to work and your benefits will start again.

Not available for work cause you are in jail :(
Not available for work cause you are in jail :(


There are a number of issues related to availability that can jeopardize your weekly claim. Conflict with school is the biggest one. If someone offers you a full time job first shift you can't refuse the job by saying you are in school. I mean you can but your unemployment benefits will cease. You have to either express willingness to be flexible with your school schedule or drop school altogether. There are a few special programs across the nation which allow you to stay in school and to keep getting your unemployment benefits.

If you are in jail sometime during the week you likely will not get paid for that week...even if it just for one day. The reason for this is because you are not fully available for work. If someone were to call you to ask you to work you could not because you are locked up.

Are you out of town? Let's say you live in Kansas City but you go to Disney World for a few weeks. You are not available for work because you are out of your labor market. You will not get paid for the time you are away.

Childcare is another issue. To be available for work you must free yourself up from childcare. You need to get a babysitter, have family help out or, get a daycare provider. The program is set up this way because it is not fair to collect unemployment money and then not be available for work. You can't have it both ways.

Self Employment and limiting work hours per your own request are a few more availability issues and I'm sure there are others.

Again, your benefits will stay ceased until you can prove your situation has changed. For example, let's say you get out of jail after being there for three weeks. You can then call the unemployment department to have your benefits restarted as you are now available for work.

Actively Seeking Work

The third A stands for Actively Seeking Work. You must look for work while you are collecting unemployment benefits. The rule of thumb is you must make three job search contacts each week that you claim. I was compassionate as an adjudicator so if you said "I e-mailed a resume to so and so, I also went into the grocery store to talk to the manager and, e-mailed someone about a job I saw on Craig's List"... that was good enough for me.

You can be audited at any time to prove you did your work search so be sure you document everything. If you do not do a weekly work search your benefits for that week will be denied. If you do a partial work search your benefits may be denied.

There are many nuances and complexities to the unemployment program and each claim is unique. If you have claimed the week and an issue arises with The Three AAAs your claim will be forwarded to adjudication.

Best Wishes!

© 2010 Missing Link


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