Can I receive Social Security payments if I have been convicted of a criminal offense?

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Learn when incarceration suspends a disabled person’s Social Security benefits and whether a jailed worker’s family can get dependents benefits.

Social Security Disability Benefits While in Jail
If you are convicted of a criminal offense and you are disabled you may qualify for Social Security benefits; however, the Social Security Administration will not pay disability benefits for any month or part of a month during which you are confined to a jail, prison, or halfway house under the jurisdiction of a governmental corrections department or agency, if you are going to be in the corrections institution for more than thirty continuous days and you are convicted of a crime and have been sentenced. Payments will be suspended beginning with the month is which you were first incarcerated after being convicted and sentenced. Similarly, you will not receive payments while confined by court order and at public expense to an institution because you are found to be incompetent to stand trial or not guilty due to insanity or mental disease. Benefits are not suspended while awaiting trial.

For example, if you were convicted of a crime, sentenced, and went to jail on January 10, 2020 for a sentence of more than thirty days, your benefits would be suspended and you would not be eligible for the January 2020 benefit, which is paid in February. Then if you were released to a halfway house run by a department of corrections, the suspension of benefits would continue. If you were released from the halfway house on parole on March 10, 2020, your benefits for April 2020 would be reinstated. Because benefits are paid in the month after they are due, you would receive your first reinstated benefit check in May 2020.

Reporting Requirements for your Social Security Disability Check
It is important to report promptly if it appears you will be in jail for more than thirty days after a conviction because you will have to repay any overpayment that occurs because you are in a correctional facility.

Application for Disability Benefits While in Jail
If you are in prison and become disabled, you can apply for Social Security disability benefits while in jail, but benefits will not start to accrue until you had been disabled for five full calendar months or until the first full calendar month after you are released, whichever is later. For more information about when Social Security benefits begin and the benefit waiting period, see our article If I Am Approved, How Much Social Security Disability Back Pay Will I Get?

The Law Regarding Family Payment
Even when your Social Security Disability benefits are suspended because you are in jail, your family’s Social Security benefits will continue to be paid or, if you apply while incarcerated, their Social Security income will start after you’ve been disabled for five full calendar months.

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