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

By   /  March 3, 2016  /  352 Comments

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

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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 income; 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. Payments will be suspended beginning with the month is which you were first incarcerated after being convicted. 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 and went to jail on January 10, 2016 for a sentence of more than thirty days, your benefits would be suspended and you would not be eligible for the January 2016 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, 2016, your benefits for April 2016 would be reinstated. Because benefits are paid in the month after they are due, you would receive your first reinstated benefit check in May 2016.

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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352 Comments

  1. Celya says:

    I recently won my disability case when I went before a judge. The judge did a offset date of March 1st 2014 because I had filed 3 years prior to that and had gone before a first judge 2 years prior to this judge as the first judge denied my case.
    I was convicted of a misdemeanor on October 18 2013 and I did Tent City and House arrest until February 14, 2014. To recap my offset date of my disability is March 1st 2014 so all of this was taken care of it was not in jail or house arrest. I recently received a letter stating my benefits have been suspended. I have only received one month check and I am waiting on my back pay. Question does this disqualified me for all my disability back pay since I did finish everything prior to my date that my disability was granted ?? Am I still eligible for my monthly payments?
    No one can give me a straight answer !!

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Celya,

      With an onset date of March 1, 2014, Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits should begin to accrue August 1, 2014 and your conviction and house arrest should not affect your current or back pay benefits. If you were approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and the house arrest precludes payment, SSI benefits could not begin until April 2014. The letter should tell you exactly why your benefits have been suspended. If you need help in understanding the letter, I suggest taking it to a Social Security office to get an explanation and to find out what you need to do to have the benefits reinstated.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

      • Celya says:

        Thank you I will be going to acquire my court paperwork saying I was off house arrest on February 14, 2014 as my offset datefor my disability was March 1, 2014
        Question will thus effect my back pay?
        I will be going to the Social Security Office as you recommend.
        Thank you

        • Kay Derochie says:

          Dear Celya,

          Your house arrest will not affect your benefits because it ended before you were determined to be disabled. For periods that could be included in back pay, please see my prior reply.

          Sincerely,
          Kay

  2. Christy Decena says:

    My husband goes before a judge tomorrow and might get locked up. I wanted to know if I’m his representive payee, will I continue to recieve how disability money or will it stop? My children recieve benifits as well, will they continue to get them? I live in Philadelphia, PA.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Christy,

      If your husband is convicted of a crime and sentenced to jail, you must report the event as soon as it occurs. His Social Security will be stopped until he is released from jail. Your children will continue to receive benefits during his incarceration.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  3. Jackie says:

    I’ve been on SSDI since 2007 due to bipolar disorder. I had a severe manic episode and got into trouble. I’m waiting sentencing from the judge. I might be court order to 5 months residential treatment program. Will I lose my SSDI during those 5 months?

    Thank you,
    Jackie

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Jackie,

      If the treatment order is in lieu of a prison sentence, yes, your Social Security may be suspended while you are in the residential treatment program. Once you know what your sentencing is, contact Social Security and submit the sentencing documents so a decision can be made.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

      • Jackie says:

        Dear Kay,

        Thank for your reply. The deal on the table is 26 days in county jail, 7 years probation and possibility of residential treatment. I’ll let my attorney know that I could lose my SSDI if I go to treatment.

        Thank you,
        Jackie

        • Kay Derochie says:

          Dear Jackie,

          You should tell your attorney that you MIGHT lose benefits. You will definitely lose benefits if you are in jail thirty days or more. If the residential treatment is for less than thirty days and is not a direct continuation of jail time with a transfer from jail to the facility, then you might not be considered in custody for thirty consecutive days and you might not lose benefits.

          Sincerely,
          Kay

    • June says:

      Hey I’m on house arrest for position of cocaine and it is a misdemeanor and or they gone to cut my check

  4. Lawrence Coelho says:

    I have question if I have a possession for sales can I still get ssi benefits

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Lawrence,

      If you are not now incarcerated for a period of thirty days or more and you are disabled and your disability was not incurred in committing a crime or due to an injury inflicted while in jail, you may qualify for SSI disability benefits. If you are incarcerated, you can file prerelease application three months before you have a definite release date.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  5. Chocolate says:

    I am the payee if a friend. He was homeless but now he rents a room from me. He us incarnated but all of his belongings are here. His Ssi was cut off. Should I appeal Ssi so that his rent can be paid and I won’t have to throw his belongings out. I could use his space for another roomer. Any suggestiond

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Chocolate,

      Your roomer continues to be eligible for SSI until he is convicted and sentenced. If that has not happened yet, you do not need to report. If he is convicted and sentenced and it is for less than thirty days or he gets to use his time already in jail to fulfill the sentence, his SSI will continue. If he has to remain in jail thirty days after conviction and sentencing, then you need to report and his benefits will be suspended. In the meantime, you might talk with him to find out if he knows anyone who would store his things for him if he has to relinquish the room.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

      Sincerely,
      Kay

    • Lee B. says:

      If a person has been in jail for a year and has not been convicted and sentenced will they have to repay funds if they’re allowing a friend to draw money out of their account through the ATM monthly.

      • Kay Derochie says:

        Dear Lee,

        Suspension of benefits due to being jailed begins after conviction and sentencing, so you are entitled to Social Security funds until that time. However, if you are receiving SSI and have not maintained a home that you have been paying for while in jail, your living arrangement has changed–you are getting free food and shelter from a government source and you may not be eligible for SSI based on living arrangements. It you are getting SSI, you should report your situation and, yes, you may have to repay.

        Sincerely,
        Kay

  6. hey if u have a neglect charge pending will that affect me being my daughter payee

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Angel,

      Yes, it is possible that you will not be chosen payee for your child. I suggest that you think about whether you have a reliable, honest relative or friend you could serve as payee.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

      • Natalie says:

        Hi kay i have a misdemeanor and got 12 months probation I owe court costs but got off probation but still i was wondering can i still be a payee?

        • Natalie says:

          That was back in 2012 can i still be a payee sorry forgot to put that in there

        • Kay Derochie says:

          Dear Natalie,

          This is in response to both your posts. The payee application will ask if you have been convicted of a crime. You need to answer, “Yes,” and in remarks explain the circumstances involved and why you should be trusted to be a payee now. Social Security at their sole discretion will decide whether or not you are appointed payee. Payee selection cannot be appealed.

          Sincerely,
          Kay

  7. Brynna says:

    Hi Kay,

    I could use some clarification for a client who is currently incarcerated, is not receiving SSA benefits, and has been in jail for more than 30 days. She currently has several bills that need to be paid and has funds in her account from previous payments. While she is incarcerated, as a rep payee are we able to use those funds to pay bills? We have been unable to get full clarification from SSA on this and cannot find specific documentation on it. Anything you know would be very helpful.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Brynna,

      Benefits that were paid for months before your client was convicted and sentenced is not affected by her being incarcerated. The thirty days starts with the date of sentencing if it is later than conviction.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  8. Good morning,
    My uncle has been in jail since June. He received SSI benefits for July and August. He wrote me a letter in July to tell me what to pay and to whom. Now, he wants me to take care of the money he received in August.He says he need the money to fined him a place to stay. He has not been sentenced yet. His court was rescheduled to September 8th. Can I buy the things he need when he get out and make a deposit on a place for him to stay?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Alecia,

      I recommend that you double check what kind of benefits your uncle is receiving because often people mix up the acronyms for the two disability benefit programs that are administered by the Social Security Administration. If he is not certain, he can call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 and ask; however, hold times are long so that might not be practical from jail. He could try writing an authorization for you to find out.

      If your uncle receives SSI, which is Supplemental Security Income, he was eligible for (SSI) benefits in June, but not in July or August. If he is receiving Social Security Disability (SSD aka SSDI), he is eligible while incarcerated until he is sentenced. If the sentence is less than thirty days or time already serviced covers the sentence, he will remain eligible. Otherwise, SSDI benefits are not payable after sentencing until he is released.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  9. Kimberly anderson says:

    If I am sentenced to a drug treatment facility will my ssdi benefits continue.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Kimberly,

      If the sentence to a drug treatment facility is in lieu of a jail sentence and it will be thirty days or more, you will probably not be eligible for SSD until you are released. If you are sentenced either to inpatient treatment or jail, notify Social Security right away so they can take the action to suspend benefits as required. If you receive SSI and are already in jail, but not sentenced, you must report now.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  10. Krystle Johnson says:

    The father of my daughter is currently incarcerated and will be for 25 years. Before he was locked up he was receiving ssi. Can his daughter get those benefits?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Krystle,

      If your child’s father was receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), no benefits are payable to your child because SSI does not pay dependent benefits. If he was receiving Social Security Disability (SSD), your daughter would probably already be receiving dependent benefits if his earnings record was sufficient to pay them. However, if he is getting SSD, just to be sure that nothing slipped through the cracks, I suggest that you inquire at your local office whether dependent benefits are payable. You will need your child’s and her father’s Social Security numbers.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

    • Alvin Davis says:

      I was incarcerated for 19 years before incarceration I did for my kid I was never ordered to pay child support . At the age of 3 I went to prison and did 19 years when I got out she was 22 years old but is there a gov law that exempt me from back child support or will I have to pay back child support. Please give me some input on my situation please

      • Kay Derochie says:

        Dear Alvin,

        I do not know the answer to your question. I suggest that you consult with a family law attorney for some guidance on this matter.

        Sincerely,
        Kay

  11. NeTashia says:

    My father has been arrested but not yet sentenced and he receives SSI. Will he still receive benefits? Can my mother receive his benefits instead?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear NeTashia,

      If your father is receiving SSI (Supplemental Security Income), he is not eligible for benefits in any month he is in jail. If he is receiving Social Security Disability (SSD), he will not be eligible for benefits if he is convicted and sentenced to jail. With either benefit, your mother cannot receive his benefits. If he has dependents receiving benefits on his Social Security record, the dependents will remain eligible.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  12. candace gambrel says:

    My husband went to jail August 15 he received his check in September. I’ve been told that I can draw off of him while he is in there because he worked and paid that money in. I really don’t know how that works. And am I suppose to report it that he’s in jail? If not will he still continue to get his check?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Candance,

      You can receive benefits for yourself while he is incarcerated. If he is convicted and sentenced to jail time, then at that point he is no longer eligible for Social Security Disability until he is released. If he is convicted and sentenced to time, you need to report then. Benefits paid for that month are not due.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

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