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SSDI- If approved are their activities that I cannot do?

Recently on our forum we had a SSDI applicant ask, “If I am approved for Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI are there activities that I can no longer do?” This is a great question which goes to the heart of what it truly means to be disabled.

Can I continue to work part-time if I get Social Security Disability Insurance?


If you have been determined to be disabled the SSA assumes that you are not able to do what they call substantial gainful activities. Gainful work is work in which you make $1,010 gross per month for the non-blind. If you are getting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and start to work the process is a bit different. You are allowed to attempt to return to work through the Ticket to Work program, but if you earn more than $720 (gross earnings per month or you are self-employed working a more than  80 hours in your own business) you will trigger a trial work month and too many of those in a row and you will lose your Social Security Disability Insurance or  SSDI benefits.

So if you are disabled, one activity you CANNOT do is work too much.

Can I volunteer if I get Social Security Disability Insurance?


This question is tricky. If you volunteered one time per month for few hours you could easily argue that this is in no way equivalent to working a full time job. But what if you went to a shelter and did reception work for them eight hours per day four days per week. The SSA may eventually conclude that if you are able to do this type of sedentary job, even if you are not generating a profit, that you could also do sedentary work for pay.

This is what the SSA terms “substantial work.” The amount of hours which will be considered “substantial” seems to be a bit nebulous but the closer you get to full-time work the more it looks like you could also perform a full-time job for pay, which means you are not disabled.

Can I do physical activity?


The amount of physical activity you can perform while on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is determined by your doctor, but it is important that you never overstate your limitations to convince the SSA you are disabled. This can be considered fraud, and if the SSA believes you committed fraud they can immediately terminate your Social Security Disability Insurance.

Obviously the physical limitations you have will be determined by your health condition. In fact, a mental health claimant may have no physical limitations but has depression or a personality disorder which is so severe they cannot work, which would not be obvious to other people.

But what if you have a severe back condition? If you have claimed that your back is so severe that you cannot stand, sit or walk for more than an hour at a time if you begin to exercise vigorously 2 hours per day, work hours in your yard doing heavy yard work or frequently go horseback riding at some point the SSA may question if you are as disabled as you claim.
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