Can I Receive Social Security Benefits if I Have a Criminal Record?

Can I Receive Social Security Benefits if I Have a Criminal Record?

James was awarded Social Security benefits several years ago after being found disabled by an administrative law judge. But several years after first receiving benefits, James is pulled over for a routine traffic violation and is charged with felony drug offenses after police discover methamphetamine on his person. After being found guilty of possessing methamphetamine, James is now looking at several months behind bars. He worries what this felony conviction will do to his benefits: Is he still eligible to receive benefits? Will his benefits stop for any period of time? If they do, how will his benefits resume?

General Rule: No Benefits While Incarcerated

The general rule is that a person who is otherwise eligible for Social Security disability benefits but who spends any continuous 30-day period in a jail, a prison, or other certain public institutions is ineligible to receive benefits during such period of confinement. A person can then have his or her benefits restarted for the month following the month in which the person is released. So for instance, suppose James is sentenced to 6 months of imprisonment and reports in February 2015 to begin serving his sentence. His benefits will be suspended effective February 2015. James is scheduled to be released on August 2, 2015. He will be eligible to have his benefits restarted effective September 2015.

Note that this only applies to continuous 30-day periods. Suppose that James is ordered to serve 30 days in jail, but is permitted to serve his time on the weekends (or alternating weeks). Because he is not incarcerated for a continuous 30-day period, this jail sentence is not likely to affect James’ benefits.

Note too that this general rule only affects the incarcerated individual. Any family member or child who is receiving benefits will continue to receive those benefits, so long as they too remain eligible.

Special Rules for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Some individuals receive both Social Security disability benefits as well as Supplemental Security Income benefits. Suppose that James is one of these individuals. His SSI benefits will also be suspended while he is incarcerated. But he is eligible to have these benefits reinstated the month in which he is released from prison (so if he is released in August, James can have is SSI benefits reinstated that same month).

However, suppose that James is not incarcerated for six months but rather sixteen months. In this situation, James would have his SSI benefits terminated. If he wanted to receive SSI benefits after being released, he would need to reapply for these benefits once he is let out of jail.

How Can a Social Security Disability Lawyer Help Me?

If you are receiving SSD or SSI benefits, the prospect of losing your benefits for any period of time can cause panic and anxiety. If you are convicted of a crime and facing prison or jail time, be sure to contact the Klok Law Firm, LLC for advice and assistance. We can advise you how your criminal sentence may impact your benefits. If you have already been sentenced, we can assist you in having your benefits reinstated.