TN 7 (08-07)

DI 10505.025 Special Employment Situations

A. Policy — work activity in certain government-sponsored programs

The following covers civilian government-sponsored job training and employment programs, and government-sponsored volunteer programs.

1. Job training and employment programs

a. General

Federal funds have been made available to State and local agencies to provide job training and employment opportunities for economically disadvantaged, unemployed and underemployed people to prepare them to function acceptably in various kinds of competitive employment.

b. Documentation and evaluation

The work activity of a person in a government-sponsored job training program must be evaluated under the usual criteria for earnings and services as discussed in DI 10505.001 through DI 10505.020, in order to determine whether he or she is engaging in SGA. A decision as to whether the work is SGA, and when such SGA may have begun, should be based on information as to the person's “countable earnings” and performance. Workers under any of these programs should not, therefore, be treated as a group. Rather, each case should be evaluated on its own merits.

The “countable earnings” of a person involved in a government-sponsored job training program are determined in the same manner as for all types of employees, as discussed in DI 10505.001. It should be noted, however, that subsidies are frequently involved in work for such programs. It is important, therefore, to consider this possibility and, when appropriate, to develop thoroughly the issue of subsidy in accordance with DI 10505.010A.

If, after the issue of subsidy (and/or impairment-related work expenses (IRWE)) is resolved, a person’s “countable earnings” are not more than the amount shown in the SGA Earnings Guidelines, and if the work does not meet either the test of comparability or the test of worth of work in circumstances where these tests apply (see DI 10505.020C.), the work activity will not be found to represent SGA. (See DI 10505.015 for when averaging earnings applies.)

Under some government-sponsored programs, part of the participant's time may be devoted to on-the-job training. Whether the person's activity is all work or whether such training is also involved, all of the SGA tests as discussed above apply.

For purposes of charging months of the trial work period (TWP), the provisions in DI 13010.060 apply.

2. Volunteer programs

a. General

The Federal government has administered a number of programs for volunteer activity under the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973 (Public Law 93-113) (DVSA) and the Small Business Act (SBA) 15 U.S.C. section 631 et. seq. Volunteers in such programs may have received payments in the form of a minimal stipend, payment for supportive services (such as housing, supplies, equipment), an expense allowance, and/or reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses.

Such payments cannot be counted as earnings, income or resources to reduce or eliminate payments made under other government programs. Therefore, neither payments made to volunteers nor the services performed by them under the DVSA or SBA, are to be evaluated for the purpose of determining SGA (or TWP) under Title II or Title XVI of the Social Security Act. This means that none of the SGA tests—earnings, comparability of work activity, or worth of work activity—is to be applied to volunteer activity under the DVSA or SBA.

This exclusion from the SGA (and TWP) provisions applies only to volunteers participating in programs explicitly mentioned in the DVSA and the SBA:

  • AmeriCorps VISTA (formerly Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA);

  • University Year for Action; Special Volunteer Programs;

  • Retired Senior Volunteer Program;

  • Foster Grandparent Program;

  • Older American Community Services Programs;

  • Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE); and,

  • Active Corps of Executives (ACE).

The protection of the exclusion explained here does not cover:

  • volunteers under DVSA or SBA programs for any work they may undertake in activities outside these specified programs;

  • non-volunteers associated with DVSA or SBA programs, i.e., program operating personnel and those persons served by the programs; and

  • volunteers who work for an AmeriCorps organization other than AmeriCorps VISTA.

NOTE: Unless a volunteer is protected under the DVSA or SBA law, count only the stipends volunteers receive as earnings when evaluating for the trial work period, or SGA months. Do not count any remuneration for expenses (i.e., housing, meals, uniforms, etc…). These expenses are provided for the convenience of the employer, and should not be counted as wages or earnings (for more information on meals and lodging, see RS 01402.240). To evaluate child care assistance, see RS 01402.220.

Example: A title II beneficiary performs volunteer work for AmeriCorps NCCC, and receives a $4000 stipend, and is provided with housing, uniforms, and meals. Since he or she is not working for AmeriCorps VISTA, we will count the stipend towards the trial work period service months, or SGA months, but will not develop for the value of the items or expenses AmeriCorps NCCC provides.

b. Documentation and evaluation

Since the person involved may be unaware of the DVSA or the SBA, or the organization or agency responsible for the volunteer programs, it is important that adjudicators be alert to any evidence of activity under one of these programs. If the person indicates that he or she is involved in one of the programs, or if the information provided suggests such involvement, obtain the name, address and telephone number of the person’s immediate supervisor. (The individual may also be able to provide pay stubs or statements which could be helpful in clarifying and documenting the nature of his or her activity in the volunteer organization.) The supervisor should be contacted to establish whether the person is a volunteer or an employee. A detailed description of his or her activities is necessary, along with information as to the type and amount of payment(s) received, such as wages, stipend, expense allowance, and/or reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses. Contact may be made by telephone and documented on an SSA-5002.

If it is found that the person engaged in volunteer activity in one of the programs, neither the payments received nor the services performed will be considered for SGA (or TWP) purposes. Document the determination regarding the volunteer services on the IRMK screen of the DCF. If eWork is used to make the work issue determination, do not record earnings from the volunteer activities on the Earnings Details screens. Instead, using the Employment Information link located on the Work Review Summary Screen, place the following statement in Job Remarks “earnings from volunteer programs not considered in work issue determination per DI 10505.025.”

If the person is found to be an employee rather than a volunteer, his or her earnings and services are to be evaluated in the usual manner for SGA (and TWP) purposes.

B. Policy — work activity on committees established under the federal advisory committee act (FACA)

1. What is a FACA committee

The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) allows the federal government to establish or utilize advisory committees consisting of non-federal employees when they are determined to be essential for furnishing expert advice, ideas, and diverse opinions to the federal government.

FACA committees are specifically authorized and established by:

  • statute, or

  • the President, or

  • a federal government agency (as a matter of formal record).

The committee may identify itself as an:

  • advisory committee,

  • board,

  • commission,

  • council,

  • panel,

  • taskforce,

  • or similar term.

2. Payments received for serving on a FACA committee

Individuals serving as members or consultants of a FACA committee may receive payments for their services. These payments may include compensation, travel expenses, and special assistance.

Effective for determinations made on or after February 21, 2006, when we determine whether an individual has performed SGA, we will not count any earnings received as a member or consultant of an advisory committee, board, commission, council, or similar group established under FACA. We will also disregard work activity performed as a member or consultant of a committee established under FACA in applying any of the SGA tests.

The exclusion from the SGA provisions will not apply if the individual’s services as a member or consultant of a FACA committee is part of his/her job duties or required as an employee of any governmental or non-governmental organizations, agency, or business.

Work performed on a FACA committee is considered and evaluated as services for the purpose of the TWP. Payments received for serving on a FACA Committee are not excluded in determining TWP service months or from income counting for SSI purposes.

3. Identifying FACA committees

If an individual reports that he/she is receiving payments for serving on a federal committee, determine if the individual is otherwise employed and if the FACA committee services are required as part of his/her job duties. If they are, the work activity and payments are not excluded in making SGA determinations.

If the individual is not otherwise employed, determine if the committee qualifies as a FACA Committee. Obtain the name of the committee and the federal agency under which it was established. A list of FACA committees is maintained on an internet database which the public may access. To access this database:

  1. Go to: http://www.fido.gov/facadatabase/ .

  2. Click on “Public Access.”

  3. Choose the year the services occurred and click on “Explore Data.”

  4. The following page will list all the agencies with FACA committees in that year. Click on the name of the appropriate agency.

The next page will list all the FACA committees in existence for that agency and year. Committees on that list qualify as FACA Committees.

4. Documenting FACA committee payments

If it is found that the payments are from a FACA committee, the work activity and payments are not considered in making SGA determinations. Document the determination regarding the FACA committee payments on the IRMK screen of the DCF, along with the following remark: “earnings from FACA committee excluded from SGA per DI 10505.025B.

  • If eWork is used to make the work issue determination, record verified earnings from the FACA committee on the Earnings Details screens and determine the TWP service months per DI 13010.060. Using the Employment Information link located on the Work Review Summary screen, place the following statement in Job Remarks: “earnings from a FACA committee excluded from SGA determination per DI 10505.025.” Use the “Revise SGA Decision for Other Reasons” override function if necessary to indicate the earnings do not represent SGA.

  • If an eWork exclusion exists, code the DCF manually for the TWP months via the VERN screen. After the 9th TWP month, show “N” for “NON- SGA” in the WORK DET field, to show that the earnings/payments for the committee activity are not SGA.

If the committee does not appear on the list, apply the usual SGA provisions to the individual’s work and earnings for that year. Evaluate on a case-by-case basis the services performed and earnings received as a member of a non-FACA committee to determine whether the individual has engaged in SGA.

C. Policy — work activity outside the U.S.

1. General

The same instructions and guides apply equally to work activity performed in any foreign country, when developing and resolving whether employment or self-employment performed in the U.S. is SGA. Before evaluating earnings, convert foreign currency to U.S. dollars per DI 10505.025C.2.

When development of employment or self-employment requires contact with employers or other sources outside the U.S., contact the Office of International Operations (OIO) for development assistance. Use an SSA-562-U3 per GN 00904.220.

For employment situations, follow the SGA evaluation guidelines in DI 10505.001 through DI 10505.035. In cases of self-employment, follow the guidelines in DI 10510.001 through DI 10510.025.

NOTE: For employment situations, if average monthly “countable earnings” are equal to or less than the SGA amount in the Earnings Guidelines (DI 10501.015), we generally do not consider other information, such as the tests of comparability and worth of work, except in certain circumstances. These tests do not apply if the exemption of work activity provision described in DI 10505.020D. applies. For other cases, the tests generally will not be used unless there is evidence that the individual is engaging in SGA or that the individual is in a position to control when earnings are paid or the amount of compensation paid (see DI 10505.020B. and DI 10505.020C.). Such evidence may exist where an individual is working full-time in a foreign country where the normal wages of unimpaired workers are less than the SGA dollar amount. The individual’s work in this situation may be considered SGA under the test of comparability if analysis of the time, energy, skill and responsibility involved in the work is comparable to that of unimpaired people in his/her community who are doing the same or similar occupations as their means of livelihood (see DI 10505.020C.1.).

2. Converting foreign currency to U.S. dollars

To use the earnings guidelines (DI 10501.015) as a measure of SGA, the foreign currency amount must be converted to U.S. dollars. Online foreign currency conversion is available at: Currency Converter for 164 Currencies Exchange rates can be obtained by exact date. Use the “interbank rate” when calculating the conversion. If additional assistance is needed to obtain a rate of exchange, call the Office of International Operations (OIO) library at 410-965-9416.

If eWork is used to make the work issue determination, enter verified earnings to the Earnings Detail screen after the foreign currency amount has been converted to U.S. dollars and document verified earnings represent U.S. dollars in Job Remarks on the Work Event screen.

3. Preparing the notice of SGA determination - denial/cessation

The SGA determinations for foreign claims will provide a personalized attachment for the claimant with the same elements described in DI 13095.140. The examples of a personalized notice illustrated in that section may be used with appropriate modifications when preparing an SGA denial for a foreign claim. The model notices provided must include slightly revised language when it is necessary to convert foreign currency into U.S. dollar values. Substitute statements about dollar amounts with terms appropriate to the currency in the foreign country at issue (e.g., “You earned 450 pesos an hour for a total of 9,000 pesos per week. This is equivalent to $100 per week, or more than $300 a month in U.S. dollar amounts during that time”). If the decision of SGA is based on criteria other than the earnings guidelines, e.g., economic worth test or comparability test, other notice modifications are needed.

4. Determining TWP service months in foreign claims

The guidelines detailed in DI 13010.060 for defining services for TWP purposes apply equally to work performed within and outside the U.S. To use these guidelines, it will generally be necessary to convert the foreign currency as indicated in DI 10505.025C.2.

D. Policy — sheltered employment

Sheltered employment is employment provided for individuals with disabilities in a protected environment under an institutional program. An employee working in a sheltered workshop or comparable facility for severely impaired persons will ordinarily be considered not engaged in SGA if the employee's “countable earnings” do not average more than the amount shown in the Earnings Guidelines (DI 10501.015).

If there is evidence, however, that a sheltered employee may be engaging in SGA, apply the tests of comparability and worth of work (see DI 10505.020C.), unless the exemption of work activity provision is applicable (see DI 10505.020D.).

The most common types of sheltered employment are:

1. Sheltered workshops

Sheltered workshops engage in manufacturing, assembly, reconditioning, repair, and other operations. These may involve direct sales to consumers and retailers, or the fulfillment of industrial contracts. Some workshops also furnish services or facilities for medical care, physical restoration, psychiatric therapy, recreation, vocational evaluation and training job placement, etc.

2. Hospitals, Department of Veterans Affairs domiciliaries, and long-term care institutions

Hospitals, Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) domiciliaries, and similar institutions for the care of individuals with long-term impairments, usually have occupational therapy programs designed to encourage the use of patients' residual physical and mental capacities. If the institution furnishes free room and board to nonworking patients (as, for example, DVA domiciliaries do), then the value of room and board is not considered pay to patients who work. However, an individual who works for an institution after he or she has been discharged from patient status may receive room and board as part of regular pay. When this occurs, the value of room and board is considered payment in-kind and is included in gross earnings.

3. Homebound employment

“Homebound employment” refers to work done at home by individuals under public or institutional programs designed to provide them with paid employment. Pay for the work is usually on a piece-rate basis. The employer delivers raw materials to the individual’s home and picks up finished merchandise. Sometimes family members may assist the impaired individual in performing the work. The value of such assistance should be deducted from wages before the Earnings Guidelines are applied.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0410505025
DI 10505.025 - Special Employment Situations - 12/21/2012
Batch run: 12/21/2012
Rev:12/21/2012