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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.