February 15, 2016
The Social Security disability attorneys at Disability Associates explain how felony convictions affect SSI disability benefits.
Although a felony conviction alone will not keep you from being approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your benefits may be suspended during the time of your imprisonment.
Eligibility After Committing a Felony
Generally, a felony conviction does not have an impact on an individual’s eligibility for Social Security disability benefits through Supplemental Security Income (SSI). However, there are three main exceptions to this rule pertaining to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) that are worth noting. You will not be eligible for benefits if:
- your disability was worsened during your time in jail, prison or a correctional facility for a felony conviction
- your disability occurred while you were committing a felony
- you intentionally made yourself an orphan or widow by killing your spouse or parent, which primarily applied to Social Security survivors benefits
Eligibility During Incarceration
Social Security disability benefits are not paid to those who are incarcerated for a felony or a misdemeanor because food, shelter and medical needs are provided during periods of imprisonment. However, there is one exception with this regulation: When convicted felons who are imprisoned participate in programs that help build skills in order to return to work upon release—also known as an approved vocational rehabilitation program—they may remain eligible for benefits.
Unless you participate in such a program, your SSI benefits will be suspended after you are incarcerated for one calendar month. These benefits may be reinstated without a new disability application only if you are released from custody before your benefits have been suspended for 12 months. It is important to note that you must report your imprisonment to the Social Security Administration when you enter or leave an institution.
Additionally, a convicted felon may apply for benefits while still imprisoned if the institution has a pre-release application procedure. Otherwise, a convicted felon can apply for benefits immediately upon release from prison or jail. However, if an individual has violated the terms of his or her parole or probation, he or she is not entitled to Social Security disability benefits.
Felons Who Flee
As a reminder, convicted felons who escape from prison are not entitled to receive Social Security disability benefits. Benefits are denied to those who have an outstanding warrant for:
- flight to avoid prosecution or confinement
- escape from custody
Social Security disability is a very complex system, and without a professional by your side, it is nearly impossible to efficiently navigate through the process. For more information about your eligibility for disability benefits while serving a prison sentence, or your individual Social Security disability circumstances, contact the disability attorneys at Disability Associates today.