Can Volunteer Work Ever Be Considered Substantial Gainful Employment?

Parmele Law FirmSocial Security, Uncategorized

You apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (“SSDI” or “disability benefits”) because you are too disabled to continue to work long enough or consistently enough to support yourself. But what happens if you are awarded disability benefits and you do volunteer wor? Can your benefits be taken away?

Let’s Get Back To the Basics.

It is important to remember when talking about disability benefits, that one of the basic requirements for obtaining (and keeping) your disability benefits is that your medical condition(s) —whether physical or mental —must be severe enough that they keep you from doing more than an insignificant amount of work for at least 12 months.

The way the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) evaluates how much work is “too much” for a disabled person to do, is by using the “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) level. According to the SSA, if you are able to work at SGA level, which translates to being able to work long enough or consistently enough to earn $1,180 per month (in 2018), then you are not in need of disability benefits.

But What About Volunteer Work?

But, you say, volunteers don’t get paid. So that means volunteer work can never amount to SGA, right?

Not necessarily.

It is important to understand that substantial gainful activity isn’t just a number. The SSA looks at whether what you are doing is “substantial” work activity. Even if you only work part-time or volunteer, work can be “substantial” if you are doing significant physical or mental activities.

Of course, “gainful” activity is something that you do get paid for. However, that does not stop the SSA from finding that your work is “gainful” —even if you don’t get paid—if what you are doing is something that people usually get paid to do. So, for example, if your volunteer work consists of answering the phone and setting appointments, or typing and filing, or babysitting, the SSA may consider it to be gainful.

If your volunteer work is for a business owned by a family member or involves physical or mental requirements that suggest you could work at the SGA level, it will probably disqualify you for benefits.

Many factors go into making a determination of whether a person is disabled and entitled to disability benefits. If you are not sure about your situation, speak with experienced disability counsel .

We Handle Disability Cases in Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Oklahoma.

If you are applying for SSDI or have been denied benefits, contact us. We are experienced social security disability attorneys. We have offices in Lebanon, Liberty, Lee’s Summit, Mountain Grove, Poplar Bluff, Rolla, St. Louis, St. Joseph, West Plains and other cities throughout Missouri. We also have offices in Kansas, Illinois and Oklahoma. We offer FREE consultations and we do not get paid unless you win your case. Contact us here  or call us at 855-727-8625 and schedule your free consultation today.