March 26th, 2014

art, collage

Social Security: selling art while disabled

Did I mention that a guy at CWC wants to buy my elephant collage? I know he's on disability & has limited funds, so I suggested $50 as a price. The collage probably took me 15-20 hours to make, so $50 isn't a "working wage," but I'm glad someone will be enjoying my art.

And who knows? Maybe someday someone will want to pay me enough for one of my collages that it actually will be a "working wage," even though I spend days and weeks on one piece.

Anyway, so I finally got up the energy to talk to Social Security about what stuff like this means for my disability payments. Asking them questions takes a significant amount of energy, because the system isn't set up for people like me, and so it's all about jobs. I don't have a job, so what do I do when I earn money from less conventional sources? Acquiring these kinds of answers requires a lot of time on the phone, most of it spent listening to muzak & irrelevent recorded Social Security announcements that have nothing to do with me but which get played over and over and over again while I wait for someone to answer my call.

So I've been harboring questions about this whole issue since I opened the Etsy shop & sold a few bookmarks. I knew that earning $5 from selling a bookmark wasn't important to report to Social Security, but I'm supposed to inform them if I "get a job," so when does selling stuff become enough of a "job" that I need to report it to them? Back when I worked temp jobs & such while on SSDI, they told me to always send in my pay stubs whenever I worked, no matter how many hours I worked or how much money I made, but informing Social Security whenever I make a dime off my art seems ridiculous.

I had a good talk with a guy at the Social Security department today, and he told me that if a person on disability earns more than a certain amount of money in a month (currently, it's $770), then it gets counted toward a "trial work period" (I won't bore people by explaining what that means), but if I don't earn more than $770 in a month, then whatever money I make in that month doesn't need to be reported.

So ... the question has finally been answered. The facts to remember (for me) are these:

1. I don't have to report every $5 or $50 that people pay me for my art.

2. If I earn more than $770 in a single month, then I need to report it to Social Security.

3. If I earn less than (or exactly) $770 in a single month, then I don't need to report it to Social Security.

4. I need to keep precise records of the money I earn—through my art or otherwise—so that if Social Security ever comes to me to do any kind of audit, I can show exactly which months I did or did not earn more than $770.

Yay! Now I can go sell some art!