If I Start a GoFundMe Campaign, Will it Affect My Social Security Disability?

April 4, 2024

People unable to work due to a physical or mental disability know all too well about the double whammy of income loss and high medical expenses.

In fact, job losses and medical expenses are the leading causes of bankruptcy in the U.S. It’s no wonder that people facing this situation turn to online fundraising through sites like GoFundMe, YouCaring or Fundly.

Unfortunately if you’re not careful, raising money this way can have a negative impact on your Social Security Disability benefits, depending on the program you qualify for.

Can Fundraising Reduce My Disability Benefits?

If you’re receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, a crowdsourcing campaign will have no effect on your benefits. There are no financial restrictions around gifts or fundraising.

You qualify for SSDI when you have a substantial work history, but can’t work anymore. Having other sources of money not from working doesn’t affect your benefits.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is totally different.

Because it’s a need-based program for individuals with very little or no income, there are earned income and unearned income limits that you may not exceed and still be eligible for SSI.

Social Security will also take into consideration the amount of your assets. To be eligible for SSI, your assets must be less than $2,000 for an individual and less than $3,000 for a married couple.

However, not all assets count toward the resource limits. The Social Security Administration lists 44 resource exclusions. The major exclusions include:

  • The house you live in*
  • The vehicle you drive*
  • Household goods (furniture, etc.)
  • Personal effects (jewelry, artwork, etc.) as long as the SSI claimant is actually using the items
  • Up to $100,000 in an ABLE account
  • Assets in a special needs trust

*It’s important to note that land you don’t live on and multiple cars are not excludable. They do count toward your asset limit.

Funds from a crowdsourcing campaign are not excluded and can count toward the asset limit.

(For more on disability benefits and assets read our blog article: Question of the Month: “Do assets affect my ability to receive disability payments?”)

Can a Family Member or a Friend Set Up a Fundraiser for Me?

This is a risky idea. Social Security does not have clear rules for when someone else collects crowdsourced money and then pays for something for you.

But if any money is given directly to you, or if your bank account or Social Security number is attached to the fundraiser, the money collected will be treated as income to you.

If someone else collects funds and directly pays for your housing costs or utilities, under SSI rules Social Security can consider this “in-kind support and maintenance” and will reduce your check for the months when this happens.

How Can I Fundraise Without Risking My Disability Benefits?

Here are four ideas for allowed fundraising under SSI rules:

No.1: Fundraise through an online site that pays your medical bills directly like Help Hope Live

They don’t give you any money. Instead they collect money for you and pay your medical bills directly. While this still may count as in-kind support, it may have less of an effect on your benefits.

The Charity Navigator rating service awards Help Hope Live four stars and says, “If this organization aligns with your passions and values, you can give with confidence.”

No. 2: Loans from Friends or Family.

This often doesn’t count as income for SSI purposes. However, cash loans can be a countable resource if you save the money instead of spending it.

Loans must be properly documented with a valid loan agreement, and a contract must be signed before you receive the money. Otherwise the money will count as an asset.

No. 3: ABLE Accounts and Trusts Aren’t Counted as Assets.

With ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts, individuals and families can establish accounts to set aside as much as $100,000 to be used for education, housing, assistive technology, and other needs of people with disabilities.

No. 4: Special Needs Trusts.

Most special needs trusts  are also excluded. Friends or family can deposit funds into a Special Needs Trust or ABLE account for you.

A cautionary note: If the money goes to you first, it will count as income. Checks must be written and deposited directly to the trust or ABLE account.

The Special Needs Alliance sums up the issue of crowdsourcing this way: “It’s unfortunate that good intentions can become so complicated. While successful crowdfunding can profoundly improve someone’s quality of life, careful planning is needed to ensure that it doesn’t have the opposite effect.”

How Can I Get Reliable Advice About Social Security Disability Benefits?

The requirements for SSDI and SSI are complicated, and Social Security has an application with many questions to determine your eligibility.

If you’re considering applying for Social Security Disability benefits or if you applied and were turned down for benefits, it’s only natural that you will have many questions.

Let the experienced Chicago disability attorneys at Nash Disability Law help you navigate the complicated and often confusing path to winning Social Security Disability. Call or email us today for a free evaluation of your case.