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Can you still get Social Security benefits if you are in jail?

If you are convicted of a crime in the US and incarcerated, depending on the length of your sentence your Social Security benefits may be affected.

How incarceration affects Social Security benefits

Social Security benefits will be suspended for those who are convicted and incarcerated for more than 30 consecutive days. While benefits for disability, retirement and survivors will start up again after the beneficiary is released, those who receive Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries, also managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) , will need to reapply if imprisoned for more than 12 months.

Note though that family members that receive payments from the SSA based on the work record of the incarcerated beneficiary will not be affected.

Depending on the correctional facility, the process of reinstating, or applying for the first time, may be facilitated by the penal institution. Here’s a look.

Social Security benefits for those convicted of a crime and incarcerated

If a beneficiary is in prison awaiting trial, their benefits will not be affected. Only if you have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to more than 30 days in a US correctional facility or institution will you see your monthly payments suspended. The suspension, as mentioned before, does not affect payments to family members who are receiving benefits based on the work record of the person in jail.

Benefits can be reinstated in the month following the month you are release. You will need to provide the Social Security Administration with your official release documents. If you know when you are going to be released, to speed up the process, you should contact the SSA prior to that date to set up an appointment as soon as you get out of prison.

You can possibly streamline the process even more if the facility or institution where you are incarcerated has a prerelease agreement with the SSA. If it doesn’t, you can see if they will arrange one with the local Social Security office. In the event that your facility has such an agreement, 90 days before your release you should notify the SSA to begin the process for reinstating you benefits.

What happens with Supplemental Security Income when incarcerated?

Just like other Social Security benefits, those who were receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments will have them suspended if convicted and sentenced to more than 30 days in a US correctional facility or institution. However, if the sentence is over 12 months, you will need to reapply once you are released. Furthermore, depending on the length of the sentence you may be up for review for your disability upon release.

Applying for Social Security benefits while incarcerated

In the event that you need to reapply for SSI or you will be applying for the first time for SSI, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or other benefits you can get the process started before you are released. You should notify someone at your institution that you want to file an application for benefits within a few months of your expected release date.

If your facility has a prerelease agreement, staff can notify the local Social Security office of your release date and provide information on whether you are likely to meet the eligibility rules. Additionally, they can provide any records that are needed to prove you have a qualifying disability.

For more information you can read the Social Security pamphlet on “What Prisoners Need to Know.”


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