Tag: #volunteer

Volunteering While on Social Security Benefits – submitted by Disability Benefits Help

Top Tips to Know When Volunteering on Social Security Disability Benefits

If you’re currently receiving Social Security disability benefits, you may be wondering if you’re allowed to volunteer without jeopardizing your benefits and health insurance. The answer is—yes! Thousands of people on Social Security disability volunteer every year. Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community and feel good about the work you’re doing. Here are some tips to keep in mind if you’re considering volunteering:

1. Volunteer with an Accredited Organization

While you don’t have to necessarily volunteer with a nonprofit, you want to make sure you are not doing any volunteer work that would be otherwise paid. For example, if you “volunteer” at a law firm and file paperwork, your benefits could be in jeopardy, as you’d be performing duties most secretaries do. Cleaning up a park with a group on a Saturday, however, would be fine.

2. Consider Your Disability

If you’re receiving Social Security disability benefits for a spinal cord disorder, but volunteer at an organization where you’re required to lift heavy packages, it’s possible the SSA will re-evaluate your claim and determine if you’re really ill enough to receive benefits. You should always ensure the tasks you do while you volunteer is suitable for your disability. If it’s too much work, you can always speak with your volunteer coordinator to find something that’s a better fit for your skillset!

3. Take it Easy

Much like point #2, you should not volunteer for a significantly long time. Volunteering for a couple of hours per week is of course fine, but if you were to volunteer 80 hours per week, you’d raise some red flags at the SSA. The SSA would likely ask, “if she can volunteer for that long, why isn’t she able to find a suitable desk job instead?”

4. Don’t Volunteer for a Family Member

Again, it’s important to volunteer with a local and accredited nonprofit in your area, like the United Way. If you’re claiming to volunteer for a family-owned business, the SSA may assume that you’re actually being paid for your work and investigate your case again.

While it may seem like there’s a lot you need to watch out for, volunteering really is easy while you’re receiving disability benefits. When you’re working with a great nonprofit there is no reason to be concerned that the SSA will revoke your benefits. Cleaning up a river, reading to children, feeding the elderly, and caring for pets are just a handful of completely acceptable volunteer activities. Just be sure to not overexert yourself or perform any duties that are outside the scope of typical volunteer experience! When you volunteer, you’ll have the satisfaction of helping others that need aid and making a difference in your community. If you have any further questions regarding your Social Security and volunteer work, you can call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213 or schedule an appointment at your local SSA office.

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Lessons Learned During My AmeriCorps Experience Will Last a Lifetime – submitted by Ryan Wise

RyanMWise-2019 Photo Crop HeadshotMy AmeriCorps service as a Teach For America corps member in Tunica, Mississippi in the late 1990s had a profound impact on me. This was my first professional role after college and it was a foundational learning experience that has shaped my career.

As a high school social studies teacher, my primary focus was on improving the quality of education my students received.  I also had the opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity in my local community. I saw first-hand the intersection of issues like housing availability and quality, food insecurity and educational opportunity. Making these connections helped me realize the need for a comprehensive approach to strengthening state education systems.

I’ve carried this holistic approach from my time as an AmeriCorps member into my role as director of the Iowa Department of Education. Our focus at the Department is on ensuring that every learner in Iowa is safe, healthy, engaged and prepared.

This vision includes ensuring students develop the skills and content knowledge they need to be successful in and beyond high school. It also means creating a safe and welcoming environment in every school, supporting students’ physical and mental health needs, and providing rich and rewarding learning opportunities that make connections between the classroom and the community.

While my AmeriCorps experience concluded nearly twenty years ago, the lessons I learned and the commitment to service I made will last a lifetime.

Ryan Wise, Director, Iowa Department of Education

A Parent’s Perspective – submitted by Randy Evans

When my daughter Katie received her degree from Iowa State University in 2007, the recession had pretty much sapped many employers’ ability to fill job vacancies. I wondered what she would do, and my ulcer was working overtime.

I was not aware of AmeriCorps or the National Civilian Community Corps. But Katie was, and she mentioned her interest in applying for the program.

The rest is history.

Little could I imagine the adventures that were ahead of her as she packed her bags and prepared to head off to California to begin her AmeriCorps service. I could not foresee how her AmeriCorps experiences would refocus her priorities in life.

It wasn’t long after she arrived in California before she and her AmeriCorps team members headed to Louisiana to help in the aftermath of the devastating hurricanes that had pounded the Gulf Coast.

It was there in Louisiana and Mississippi that accounts came back to Iowa of what AmeriCorps members mean to people whose lives are touched by these dedicated young people.

Katie and her AmeriCorps colleagues spent weeks working along the Gulf Coast, helping Habitat for Humanity bring safe and sturdy housing to the hard-hit region.

One day in the checkout line at a grocery store illustrates the impact these young people were having on the region. The checkout clerk noticed the AmeriCorps emblem on Katie’s shirt and told her, “Thank you for all you are doing down here.”

Hearing about that encounter, my wife and I realized that the service by Katie and the other people in AmeriCorps was incredibly important beyond just the houses they were building to replace those left in rubble by the storms. These AmeriCorps members also were helping rebuild the spirit of the people along the Gulf of Mexico.

We smiled with parental pride when Katie called home one evening in 2008 to update us on her work. She and her team members had been living in spartan conditions in a vacant school building. This particular week, she and her friends were delivering construction materials to keep hundreds of volunteer homebuilders well-supplied.

The volunteers came from across the United States to work alongside former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn during the Carter Work Project, an annual week-long Habitat for Humanity event in which Habitat’s most famous volunteers led the hands-on work of constructing much needed homes for people in need.

Katie described seeing the Carters and the other Habitat volunteers hard at work as the AmeriCorps members ferried supplies to the construction sites.

That was not the only time we beamed with pride during her AmeriCorps service.

We eagerly shared with our friends her accounts of learning to frame and roof new houses, of her patient explanations to the uninformed among us of the differences between plywood and OSB lumber, of hanging doors and building shelves as the houses neared completion.

My guy friends were flat-out envious when I told them about Katie running a forklift and a Bobcat.

Even smaller events were fodder for proud parental memories — like the day Katie worked with First Lady Michelle Obama on a playground construction project in San Francisco, or the hours that she and her AmeriCorps team members spent clearing storm debris from around the homes of grateful elderly people in Louisiana, or the weeks they spent mentoring kids like Rico, Jack and Javaughn at a Boys & Girls Club in California.

While Katie talks about these memories, too, she also talks about the lessons she learned from the people she was serving during her two years with AmeriCorps.

And that, in this parent’s view, is the best capsulation of the value of this wonderful program.