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Programs - Artworks: Creative Industries - Social Security Information

Working as an Artist with a Disability Receiving SSDI or SSI

Below is some simple information about SSDI and SSI to get you started on understanding this system. For more detailed information visit the Social Security Administration Website at www.ssa.gov.

Working while receiving SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance)

There are three stages:

STAGE 1
Trial Work Period

Yes, you have a disability. But that does not mean you cannot work. Give it a try. See what you can do. In Stage One you have can test out different jobs and schedules to find out what you like to do. You can work part-time or full-time. You can make a little bit of money or a lot of money. If you make a little bit of money, you can keep doing that and keep your disability check as long as you are disabled. If you make over $720* in one month, that month counts as a try in your Trial Work Period. After nine tries within a five year period you go on to stage two. If you are self-employed as an artist, your trial work period can be based on hours rather than money. If you work over 80 hours a month, that month counts as a Trial Work Period month.

STAGE 2
Extended Period of Eligibility

In the last five years, you made over $720* nine times or more or ran your own business and worked over 80 hours a month nine times or more. You must have a job you are really good at! Now you are in Stage Two and for exactly 36 months you can continue to get your disability check and work unless you make over $1000*. If you make over $1000* one month, you will not get your disability check that month. But next month you will, if you make less than $1000*. Remember that this number is your paycheck minus any impairment related work expenses. So if you have expenses such as an attendant, art supplies, work equipment, medical services, or transportation expenses that are needed to make working possible for you, subtract that from your salary. After 36 months, you are now going on to stage three.

STAGE 3
Benefits Terminate

Now you are in Stage Three. You have been working for a long time and you have shown that you can do it. Now, if you make over $1000* one time, you don’t get disability checks any more. That may sound scary, but think about it. You have shown that you can work and your paycheck is large. You can probably live off your job alone and no longer need a disability check. If for some reason your job doesn’t work out, you can request to get your disability check back within five years if you still have the same disability.

*Numbers are based on the 2010 figures. Amounts change each year.

Working While Receiving SSI (Supplemental Security Income)

You can work and still receive SSI. Since SSI is given to people who have little or no income, the amount you receive will be adjusted as you work.

To find out how much your check will be affected you must do some math.

First, look at your paycheck and subtract $65 from your paycheck amount. Then divide that number in half. The number you get is called your Countable Wages and is how much will be taken from your SSI check. But that is OK because you made almost double that amount in your paycheck and that means you make more money overall.

Do you also have impairment related work expenses? These are expenses such as an attendant, work equipment, medical services, or transportation expenses that are needed to make working possible for you. If so, then you do the math problem a little differently. First, subtract $65 from your paycheck amount. Then subtract the Impairment Related Work Expenses. Divide that number in half and that is your Countable Wages and how much will be taken from your SSI check.

How do I count money I receive from selling my artwork?
If you create art as part of a job, then you do not own the art, your boss does, and you get a paycheck. You would count those earning as we said above.

If you create and sell your art and you are your own boss, in other words, self-employed, then you count the artwork sales as income for your business. Save receipts of all your supplies because at the end of the year you will do your taxes and count your income minus your expenses or supplies for the year, and that total will be divided out among the months and then you use the math above to see how your SSI check is changed.

If you create artwork for fun, not as a job, and you happen to sell your artwork, or win an award for your artwork, that is called unearned income. Be sure to save your receipts for supplies because you can subtract those costs from the sales price to come up with the final amount that will affect your SSI check. It is best to spend the money you get from your award or art sales in the month that you make it. If you hold onto it, it could be counted as a resource, and if you have over $2,000 in resources, you may not get SSI anymore.

For a Fact Sheet on “Understanding Supplemental Security Income SSI Spotlight on Income From The Arts” visit Social Security Online's Supplemental Security Income web page.

Medicare and Medicaid

Most people are very worried about their insurance being canceled if they start to work. Here are some facts:

PASS Plan

A work incentive that can be useful for self-employed artists is the PASS Plan (Plan for Achieving Self-Support). With PASS you can set aside money from your monthly SSI check to be used for a specific purpose such as to go to school or start a business. For more information on PASS, visit Social Security Online's PASS web page.

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