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Peace Corps Volunteer
May 1, 2014

I'm currently on SSDI due to HIV. I'm thinking about applying to be a volunteer with the Peace Corps. The position is teaching English as a Second Language in Eastern Europe. How would being a Peace Corps Volunteer effect my SSDI? Financially I'm likely to remain within the $770 allowable income and otherwise I could transition into the Ticket to Work program. What do you think?

Response from Mr. Chambers

That sounds like an awfully ambitious goal for a person whom Social Security deems unable to work.

Let's deal first with the compensation. Are you sure the living/housing allowance will be below $770/month, which is the level at which Social Security considers your work to be in a Trial Work month. There are only nine of those, after which your earnings must remain below $1,070 per month. Note that those numbers change with inflation every January 1. All forms of remuneration including housing, food, etc. would be considered as earnings, despite being labelled a "volunteer".

Second, have you discussed your status as a disabled person with the Peace Corps? While they cannot discriminate against you for disabilities, they do have the right to ask if you are physically and mentally able to do the job and decline you if you are not. You should confirm with them whether they would accept you as a volunteer, given your disabled status.

Medicare is no good outside the US, but the Peace Corps does provide medical and dental benefits. You need to make sure you will have access to your medications.

Finally, are you sure this is something you could do for the 27 months the volunteer period normally lasts? What will be the hours each day you are expected to work?

I think you have an ambitious and admirable goal, but I am concerned about the impact on your health and whether or not this is even possible.

I am also concerned that if Social Security conducts a Continuing Disability Review, your status as a (supposed) full-time volunteer would cause them to terminate your benefits, both SSD and Medicare.

I encourage you to talk to the Peace Corps and see what they say. This is also something you definitely should discuss with your physician.

Good luck, Jacques

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