Can You Volunteer While on Disability Benefits?

Can You Volunteer While on Disability Benefits?

Did you know that volunteering can disqualify you for disability benefits? Depending on the circumstances, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may deem your volunteer work to be “substantial gainful activity” and discontinue your benefits.

According to the SSA, “substantial gainful activity,” or SGA, is an activity performed for pay or profit—or that is normally performed for pay or profit. If the SGA is performed for pay, you cannot make more than $1,130 a month. If you do, you will no longer be eligible for disability benefits. However, while the SSA typically considers the amount of income you earn from working when calculating whether or not you are working at the SGA level, volunteering is considered as well. When volunteering, the SSA will look at the work being performed and determine whether or not the work rises to SGA levels. If they decide that it does, they will discontinue your disability benefits, even if the volunteer work does not pay.

When is volunteer work considered SGA?

If the SSA evaluates your volunteer efforts, they will look at the work being performed and assess whether or not such work demonstrates your ability to work full time. While the SSA does not have specific guidelines for determining whether or not you have reached SGA level, there is certain evidence they look for when making their final determination. The SSA will look into the following:

  • How many hours per week you volunteer
  • What kind of pay you would typically receive if you were being paid for your efforts, and whether or not that pay would be above the SGA limit
  • Whether or not the physical requirements of the volunteer work indicate that you could work at the SGA level
  • The volunteer work that you perform is done for a local small business owned by a relative

When is volunteer work not considered SGA?

While you can be subject to review for certain volunteer efforts, there are other volunteer efforts that are covered by the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973 and therefore, that cannot be used as evidence of SGA. These protected volunteer programs include:

  • Volunteers in Service to America
  • University Year for ACTION
  • Special Volunteer Programs
  • Retired Senior Volunteer Program
  • Foster Grandparent Program
  • Service Corps of Retired Executives
  • Active Corps of Executives

Even if you receive payment from one of these programs for your work efforts, the SSA cannot legally consider any work you do for them substantial gainful activity.

Can You Volunteer While on Disability Benefits? Exceptions to the SGA Rule.

If you have been receiving SSI disability benefits for more than one year, the SGA rule no longer applies to you, and you are free to volunteer while on disability as you choose. However, your choice to volunteer on a part or full-time basis may raise a red flag to the SSA, prompting them to conduct a review of your medical condition. If they find that your medical condition has significantly improved since your last medical evaluation, your disability benefits may be terminated.

Consult with a Mt Pleasant SSDI Benefits Attorney

If you currently receive Social Security disability insurance and want to or currently volunteer with a local organization, it is important that you understand what is and is not considered SGA in the SSA’s handbook. If you are unsure about whether or not your volunteer efforts would make you ineligible for SSDI benefits, get help from a Mt Pleasant disability attorney.

Contact Klok Law Firm LLC for a consultation today.