Social Security and Sheltered Work

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How Can Sheltered Work Affect Your Social Security Disability Claim?

When you’re unable to work due to an injury or disability, you may qualify for social security disability benefits. The amount that you receive depends on a number of factors including the nature of your disability, number of years paying into social security, and your spouse’s income. 

However, it’s important to keep in mind that this amount may be affected if you’re working at all. 

Some disabled individuals might perform what’s called sheltered work, which is working situations in which modifications are made. This guide will go more in-depth into sheltered work and how it could impact the disability benefits you receive. 

What Is Sheltered Work?social security sheltered work

As mentioned above, sheltered work is an employment situation in which modifications or accommodations are made for people with disabilities. These modifications are those that a traditional employer wouldn’t make. Many individuals who are performing sheltered work are employed by a family member, friend, or organization that hires employees knowing that there are limitations. These organizations may include non-profit organizations or state government programs. 

As an example, an individual performing sheltered work might work for a family member who owns a grocery store. They can work the hours they want, take more frequent breaks, and work their schedule around their physical needs. All of these are accommodations that a traditional employer might not make, but a family member or close friend would. 

Sheltered Workshops 

Another common example of sheltered work environments is sheltered workshops. These settings are now often called community rehabilitation programs (CRPs). These environments are typically non-profit organizations or state government programs that employ individuals with intellectual, physical, or developmental disabilities to perform tasks. Those working in workshop settings typically have significant disabilities and are unable to secure competitive employment. These types of employment services generally pay less than minimum wage. 

social security sheltered work

Many sheltered workshop environments provide basic vocational training or employment rehabilitation programs, so these adults with disabilities can move on to seek further employment opportunities. The Social Security Administration has clear guidelines for what qualifies as a sheltered workshop setting. Some disability rights advocates have spoken out against sheltered workshops, citing subminimum wage and a lack of community involvement among the main issues.

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), those working in sheltered workshops are not considered to be engaged in substantial gainful employment (SGA). However, while this type of work might not put an individual over the SGA level, it’s important to note that sheltered work can impact eligibility for social security benefits. 

How Can Sheltered Work Affect Supplemental Security Income?

When calculating the total amount of supplemental security income (SSI) an applicant will receive, the social security administration looks at your entire work history. This often leads to applicants receiving less than they expected. It’s also possible that those who are working through sheltered employment are still over the substantial gainful employment level, which means that they might not qualify for social security benefits at all. 

Even if a disabled person is unable to perform typical work activities, this might be difficult to prove if they are working in a sheltered setting. It’s important to realize that some disabled individuals would earn more SSI benefits if they left their sheltered employment position. Doing so may further prove that you’re unable to sustain gainful part-time of full-time employment, so you will earn enough social security benefits to support you. If your loved one is employed through a sheltered workshop or similar rehabilitation services, be sure to consider whether their employment program is lowering their potential SSI benefits. 

social security sheltered work

Keep in mind that it’s always helpful to get informed advice from a social security disability attorney. They can assess your situation and help you estimate how much compensation you’ll be eligible for. Potential SSI benefits will look different for everyone since there are many factors involved. So, a lawyer can help you compare SSI benefits to the amount of earnings gained through sheltered employment. 

If you have questions about social security disability benefits or are facing a claim that’s been denied, the team at Hill & Ponton is available to help. Our knowledgeable attorneys are available to assess your social security claim and help you earn appropriate benefits. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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