An Honest, Clear Voice In SSI/SSDI Care

Will an artist’s income affect SSI-related benefits?

On Behalf of | Oct 27, 2017 | Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Not every Oklahoman who receives Supplemental Security Income works a regular job. Some people are in the creative industry and are artists. For those who work in the arts, the money received for artwork might not count against their SSI benefits when it is calculated how much they can receive. When working in the arts and making an income, it is imperative for the SSI recipient to understand how the Social Security Administration assesses this income.

The type of work the person does in the arts will determine whether it affects the SSI. If the work is as an employee for another person in producing the work, then the income will be considered wages. If it is a person who is operating a small business, the money will be calculated as earnings from being self-employed. For a person who falls into neither one of those categories, any money earned as an artist will count as unearned income during the month it is received. This is because it was not earned from employment or self-employment. If other income is received, the SSI might be lowered, all income will not be calculated.

For wages, the gross monthly amount is the key. The first $65 will be subtracted from that total and then the SSA will subtract half of what remains. If the person begins earning what would be too much to get SSI, it does not automatically mean certain benefits like Medicaid will stop. If the income stems from wages or being self-employed, the Medicaid will continue until it is possible to afford similar medical coverage. If the income declines, it might be possible to get SSI again with no need to apply for it.

Awards for the artwork will be counted as unearned income during the month it is received. If the money is spent in that month, it will reduce the SSI for that month. Money that is retained after that month will be viewed as a resource and subject to the limits on resources. Grants and fellowships for the art do not affect SSI benefits provided they are used for educational costs. Money for food and shelter and any other purchase will be considered unearned income.

Receiving SSI benefits should not stop a person from pursuing their art for fear of losing their benefits. Having a legal professional who understands how the income from artwork is calculated with SSI Supplemental Security Income can protect a person from losing benefits and allow them to pursue their work without worries.

Source:, “Spotlight On Income From The Arts — 2017 Edition,” accessed on Oct. 24, 2017