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Working and Volunteering While Receiving Social Security Disability Benefits

If you are receiving Social Security Disability benefits, you may find yourself wondering if you are allowed to earn any income at all or even volunteer your time to worthwhile organizations. After all, you get disability benefits because you are unable to work and earn a substantial income. Does that, however, mean that you cannot perform any work-related activities at all? Furthermore, does it mean that you are not allowed to volunteer your time? Not necessarily.

Living with Purpose

People who are receiving Social Security Disability payments can often benefit from engaging in occasional work or volunteer activities. Volunteer work or a part-time job can provide you with social stimulation and a purpose in life. No one likes to feel as if they have nothing to contribute to their family or to society in general. Volunteering your time or performing occasional part-time work can prevent you from feeling this way. In fact, seeking out occasional part-time work or volunteer activities may actually prevent depression and provide you with a variety of emotional rewards. With that being said, however, there are some things you need to consider if you are interested in working or volunteering when receiving Social Security Disability benefits.

Watching the Social Security Disability Working Parameters

When deciding to volunteer or work part time when receiving Social Security Disability benefits, you need to be careful that your activities do not interfere with your disability status. If you earn more than $1,000 per month, the Social Security Administration will assume that you can support yourself and your benefits may be affected. While you won't lose your Social Security Disability benefits right away, you will lose them after having earned a substantial income for nine months.

If part-time work is not an option, you may want to consider volunteer opportunities. The question is, are you allowed to volunteer your time when receiving Social Security Disability benefits? After all, you don't earn an income from volunteer work. Does that mean volunteering will not interfere with your ability to receive Social Security Disability benefits? Not necessarily.

Volunteering one or two hours a week can provide you with social opportunities and a feeling of fulfillment. Offering to volunteer a few hours each month isn't likely to interfere with your Social Security Disability benefits. If, however, you are found volunteering twenty or forty hours each week then you may indeed lose your Social Security Disability benefits even though you aren't earning a dime. The reason behind this is that the Social Security Administration may determine that you are capable of holding down a job if you are able to volunteer that much time with an organization.

Thinking Forward

If you do not plan on receiving Social Security Disability benefits for the rest of your life, you may actually want to consider volunteering at least one to two hours each week for purposes other than personal fulfillment. If, at some point, you want to go back out into the workforce, you don't want a huge gap to appear in your employment resume. Volunteer positions can help eliminate this problem.

One other thing to consider is that a volunteer position may eventually turn into a paid job opportunity. If you start out volunteering one or two hours per week, you can increase your volunteer efforts as your condition improves. Eventually you may be able to obtain a paid position at the organization you have volunteered with.

If your volunteer activity does turn into a paid position, you will need to report your earnings to the Social Security Administration. Fortunately, that does not mean that your Social Security Disability benefits will automatically be revoked. Through the Social Security Administration's “Ticket to Work” program you can retain your Social Security Disability benefits for up to nine months while trying to return to the workforce. After nine months of substantial employment (earnings of more than $1,000 per month) your Social Security Disability benefits will stop. If, however, your new job doesn't work out and after a few months you realize that your disability is still preventing you from performing daily work activities you will not lose your benefits.

The Bottom Line About Working While on Social Security Disability

The Social Security Administration does not want to lock you up in your home for the rest of your life. It is very understandable that people on Social Security Disability may want to contribute to society in one way or another. Volunteering your time here and there or earning a few extra dollars every so often will not interfere with your ability to collect Social Security Disability benefits. If, however, your volunteer work and job efforts show a clear indication that your disability has improved, you may risk losing your Social Security Disability payments.


I'm HIV+ I made the mistake of working to much I really need to know what to do to get reinstated, it has effected my medicare i can't get my meds now.

The area I live in is rual and though we have a police force. We also have Constables it pays nothing it is an elected posision. The reason that I am thinking of doing this is because I was a vol fire fighter I have a strong since of civic duty. As a constable I can work as many hours as I want to and all I have to do is be seen. I think presence is provention. I can work or do nothing. I broke my back 6 places. so I get tired real easy no boss will let me take days off to sleep. because it is nothing for me to sleep 24 to 36 hours if I become tired. My leg is paralized but I can walk short distances. but I cant even lift 10 pounds. The great thing about being a contable I get back out in the public sector and I dont have to spell well wink

I read your statement on volunteer. You know I am in the same boat so to speak, was a Paramedic Firefighter 32 years. I got hurt on the job in 2000 and retired medically. For the past twelve years I am lost, trying to fight the pain and symptoms but still want to Make a Difference. Life is a cumulation of events, some of us see the benefit in helping those who can't help themselves. Funny thing is that my mind isn't broke, just my body. So what's a person to do? Tired of Doctors, pills and depression, but don't wanna risk my life line to my disabilty payments...this is really the propblem, so many health bodies running around lazy with no desire to work, and us who care more than we should still wanna put our self second to help those who don't know how. God bless you and I hope you have a good day, one day at a time.

Reading this, even though it is not my situation exactly, makes me feel not alone. I am still an EMT-Paramedic...just holding the Certificate because I worked for it and it is sad to say this, but it is part of my identity. I worked as a 911 In-Charge Medic for 13 years and my husband is still on the ambulance full time. I fought disability for 2 years & was approved, with 36 hours left before our house was foreclosed on.....which was a BLESSING!!!! I have EDS, a rare connective tissue disease, along with.Lupus...etc...etc...and I have constant pain due to.100's of sublaxations throughout the day and everything that goes along with that. I have learned to cope with the pain as best I can with meds and still have breakthrough pain that leaves me in bed for 48'hours or more. The pain and other issues are small in comparison to mental and emotional.issues that has accompanied. It is hard to hear my husband talk about his day at work without tearing up. I wish there was SOMETHING that I Could do with the knowledge and work experience that I have.:(

I just starting to get SSD and I am a volunteer firefighter and I may have to give this up I think this is wrong. I am also and commissioner which I do get pay but that is only one time a year

Hi Mike, thank you for your question and concern. You may work while receiving SSDI. However, you can't perform any substantial gainful activity meaning you can't make more than $1,070 per month or $1,800 per month if you're blind. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our Substantial Gainful Activity page.

If u r working a paid part time work but u volunteer at a local hospital 4 hrs a week 2 days can u lose your ss thanks for your time

Hi there,
Volunteering at a hospital shouldn't lose you your benefits.
As for paid part-time, it will depend on how much you're earning. If you make more than $1090 a month on SSDI or $733 a month on SSI, you will not qualify for benefits anymore.

If u put more hrs as a volunteer at the local hospital and u keep track of your hrs at your paying job but still ungoing health issues can u still lose your ss thanks for your time

Hi there,
This will really depend on the case and why you're disabled. If you are volunteering but are not doing any of the activities that you were found disabled for, I would imagine that you would not lose your benefits. Again, this may depend on who judges your disability in your area.

I started receiving SSDI last summer. I will have a three year medical review, but am not sure if I will ever be able to work again. Is it permitted to do political volunteer work. I would like to comment on blogs and send e-mails as needed to help elect a future Presidential candidate. That would be the limit of what I could volunteer since I am overseas. I haven't contacted any campaigns yet. Would this jeopardize my SSDI? Thanks!

Hi there,
I honestly am not a perfect person to ask, because it will honestly depend on how the person who conducts your evaluation sees your volunteering. It also depends on what you were found disabled for. If you were found disabled for back pain and you are unable to leave your bed, then it is likely that you will be fine commenting on blogs. If you were found disabled for a mental disorder but you are perfectly able to write complex emails about political campaigns, then your benefits may be in jeopardy. Additionally, the SSA will take into account how much time you spend volunteering. If you volunteer for a few hours a week, you should be fine. If you volunteer for 5 hours a day, the SSA may not believe that you're disabled enough to continue to receive benefits.

I've been on disability I've been working here and there but my injuries keeps me from working I'm going back and forth to Doctors and cannot keep a job because of my injury would like to volunteer but still get paid how can I do that can you help.#keep losing jobs because of injury

Hi there,
If you volunteer for a couple of hours a week, you should be fine. Any more than this and you could potentially lose your benefits.

If I were to get a job or earn an income that is less than the monthly "substantial gainful activity" income limit while collecting SSDI, do I still need to contact SSA to inform them of the job/income? How does that work if you do have to contact them and does it put up a "red flag" for SSA to consider you're no longer disabled? I would like to take a class or two or just find something minimal to do outside of my four walls. Thanks.

Hi Lily,
You will need to report any earned income to the SSA, as they may adjust your benefits as necessary. You will probably not have any additional re-evaluations aside from the normal yearly ones, but if you preform a physically strenuous job then the SSA could potentially question your disability status.

I have been receiving SSDI benefits for a mental disorder for thirteen years. I am thinking about volunteering for a non profit organization eight hours a week, providing simple office support like answering phone calls. Would this actvity cause me to lose my benfits. Kindly, MT

Hi Mitchum,
This should be fine, because if you WERE paid, you would not be making nearly enough to qualify for substantial gainful activity (SGA). SGA is an amount of money someone can/could potentially earn per month and disqualify them for disability benefits. If you're only working 8 hours a week, you'd make no more than $300 on minimum wage. SGA is set at $1090 this year.