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Volunteering: It Can Put Your Social Security Disability Benefits At Risk

Just because someone has a disability which prevents them from working doesn’t mean that they don’t feel the need for social interaction or have a desire to help their local community. Volunteering is a wonderful way for anyone to help others and to feel like they are living with a purpose. However, it’s important to understand that some volunteer work can be viewed as actual work, putting the volunteers Social Security Disability benefits in jeopardy.

a sign encouraging volunteer work

Work: How Does The SSA Define It?

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), work is defined as a person performing tasks for pay or profit. However, this can also mean that the person is doing activities that would normally be performed for pay or profit, regardless of whether or not that profit is ever received. An excellent example is Habitat for Humanity. Volunteers are busying building and remodeling homes for those that need them but these activities are something that a contractor would have been paid to do.

Unfortunately, there are no clear guidelines provided by the SSA to determine if volunteer activities would be considered work and benefits cut off. However, in the past, the administration has looked negatively on:

  • Volunteering more than a few hours per week.
  • Work being performed by a volunteer which would be above the substantial gainful activity level (SGA) if the volunteer would have received fair payment.
  • If the volunteer work is being performed at a business that is owned by a relative.
  • If the volunteer work being performed requires the volunteer to use physical force which would indicate they are able to return to their previous employment.

For example, even though taking phone calls might not seem like a big deal, if the volunteer worked as a receptionist in the past and performed this type of work for an organization, it may be viewed as an indicator that the volunteer was more than capable of returning to work.

Programs That Are Exceptions

There are programs which are covered by the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973. If a person volunteers for any of these, they will not risk losing their benefits. Programs include:volunteers helping the community

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

In addition to this, if the volunteer is on an advisory board or committee, this would not be an issue – as long as it was joined after the benefits were approved and the board has nothing to do with a previous job.

I’m Unsure If I Should Volunteer  – Can You Help?

Absolutely. If you want to better the community but are afraid you may lose your benefits as a result, contact our firm before you begin. We can review the type of volunteer work that will be performed and let you know if it may but your benefits at risk.

What Should I Do If The SSA Stopped My Benefits?

If you’ve been notified that your benefits have been stopped because the administration believes that your volunteer work indicates that you are able to return to work full time, the next step is to contact our firm. Together, we can review the volunteer position, the work that was performed, the type of employment you enjoyed prior to becoming disabled, consult medical professionals, and file an appeal.

How Long Does An Appeal Take?

Appeals can take a substantial amount of time – some even take more than a year. However, there is typically no other option and it may be the only way for you to obtain much-needed compensation and stay financially safe.

How Much Does It Cost To Work With Your Firm?

We know how difficult it is to imagine working with an attorney when you’ve already lost the benefits that are likely paying for everyday needs. That’s why we work on a contingency fee basis. This means that we are upfront with our fees from the very beginning and any compensation that we receive comes directly out of the money we obtain for you. If we fail, we don’t get paid. That way, you rest easy knowing you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.