I am currently receiving LTD from Company X. They have another company currently assisting me with filing SSDI. I do not want to jeopardize either sources of income, but I am going crazy alone in my home. I am a Registered Nurse and am considering volunteering at a free clinic. The work would have to meet multiple restrictions (if it's even possible).
My work focuses on Social Security disability, and I will restrict my answer to that.
The short answer is yes, you can do "some" "easy" work (paid or unpaid) while applying for and even while receiving SSD. Everything depends on the details. How much volunteering? How easy is the work? The more your work looks like "substantial gainful activity," especially when it is the sort of work you've performed full-time in the past, the less it looks like you are (or continue to be) disabled. Plenty of people perform volunteer work and part-time paid jobs even while receiving SSD. It is the details that matter, and I cannot give you specific advice on how much you can volunteer before it potentially becomes an issue. It sounds like you will be working with an attorney or non-attorney representative on your SSD case soon, and I suggest you talk to them about it.
I agree with Mr. Caver, but I would also add that it is imperative that you discuss this with your representative before you start volunteering. The reality of the situation is that those who tend to over achieve or push themselves are not always rewarded for their effort in this system. The reason I point this out is that you will need to document the restrictions, hours worked, accommodations, problems with predictable schedules, etc, etc. Volunteering, going to school or even working part-time for pay would not and should not preclude a person from being determined "disabled" for the purposes of doing a full-time job under the Social Security rules, but it may suggest a presumption that your representative will need to be prepared for and affirmatively address.
Social Security is much more reasonable about this sort of thing than LTD carriers are. I agree with the other answers as to how Social Security would look at this, but let me add my two cents as someone who spends about half his time working on Social Security cases, and the other half working on LTD cases (usually for the same people).
All Social Security attorneys can look up all of the rules and regulations that have to do with Social Security, and most good ones know most of the relevant rules off the top of their heads. That's not true with LTD - everything comes down to the terms in the policy, and there is very little regulation from the government about what can be or should be in the policies. Some LTD policies contain an income component to the definition of disability, so you could potentially work as a volunteer without causing any problems with your claim. Other LTD policies are worded pretty vaguely, and any "work activity" - even volunteer work - might be enough to allow the carrier to terminate your claim. The LTD carrier may also have you under surveillance, also, which is not something Social Security does. I'm not going to say "don't do it," because I know how hard it can be to sit at home doing nothing, but I'll say it would be better for your claims if you didn't do it, and that you should be very careful about HOW you do it. Document your time spent volunteering, your activities and restrictions while volunteering, and any problems you run into very carefully.
One more thing - be careful with the "company assisting you with SSDI." This company has your LTD carrier's interests in mind as well as yours (perhaps in front of yours). I have seen such companies take the worst information out of a Social Security file and share it, completely out of context, with the LTD carrier, who then uses that information to close the LTD claim. I have seen these companies emphasize certain aspects of a person's claim to Social Security to take advantage of limitations in the LTD policy. For example, many LTD policies contain a two-year limit on payments for "mental and nervous conditions," such as depression. If Social Security approves someone's claim based primarily on depression, paying less attention to the person's physical impairments, that gives the LTD carrier a good reason to stop paying after two years. The long and short of it is that I don't trust these companies at all, and you should know that you have a right to hire an independent attorney who only cares about your interests. The LTD carrier will probably still give you credit for the attorney's fee against any "overpayment" that results from the award of SSDI back pay, so there would probably be no additional cost to you to get your own SSDI attorney.
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