Will Going To Prison Affect My Social Security?

Typically, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will not consider the months where you were in jail, prison, or other public institutions for committing a crime eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplement Security Income (SSI) monthly payments. Being released does not automatically qualify you to receive SSDI or SSI payments.

Who Can Receive SSDI Benefits?

Social Security provides retirement benefits to those who are at least 62-years-old and have earned enough work credits in addition to paying Social Security taxes for at least ten years. The SSA pays disability benefits to those who cannot work due to a severe medical condition that will remain for at least 12 months or result in death. Someone who is on parole or just unemployed will not be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits.

Who Can Receive SSI Benefits?

The SSA provides SSI benefits to those who are at least 65-years-old, blind or disabled, and those who sum income and resources are below a set limit. However, the SSA will not pay SSI benefits for the months that you were in jail, prison, or any other public institutions.

Does Going To Prison Affect My Social Security Benefit Payments?

If you were receiving Social Security before going to prison, your payments would be suspended if you were convicted of a crime and sent to jail or prison for longer than 30 consecutive days. You can expect to receive benefits again the month after your release. While you’re unable to be paid monthly Social Security benefits while you were in jail, benefits to your spouse or children will not be suspended assuming they are still eligible.

If you were collecting SSI payments before incarceration, your benefits would also be suspended. With SSI, you can begin receiving payments the month of your release; you won’t have to wait until next month. Be aware, if you were incarcerated for 12 continuous months or more, you will no longer be eligible for SSI benefits and will need to complete and submit a new application for Social Security benefits.

How To Get Your Benefits Reinstated After Being Released From Prison

If the SSA suspends your SSDI or SSI payments because you were incarcerated, you can directly ask for Social Security to reinstate your benefits. You’ll need to contact Social Security and send a copy of your release documents before they respond to your request.

To clarify, if you were collecting monthly payments from Social Security Disability Insurance but were then convicted of a crime and sent to prison on June 14, 2015, the SSA will suspend your benefits starting June 2015. If you finally released in January 2016, the SSA will reinstate your SSDI benefits starting February 2016. However, since SSDI benefits are paid the month after the month when they are owed, you will receive your February payment in March 2016.

Another example would be if you were taking home SSI benefits but then were sent to prison in September 2016 and released December 21, 2016, your SSI benefits will be reinstated effective December 21, 2016. You will qualify to receive a partial payment for December, and your full benefit amount will be paid starting in January 2017.

If you were not eligible to receive SSDI or SSI benefits before being incarcerated, or your SSI benefits were terminated due to being in prison for 12 consecutive months or more, then you will have to file a new application for Social Security disability benefits.  It’s recommended you speak with Social Security to learn about submitting a claim for Social Security benefits. You will need to be able to submit proof of your release from prison, as well as a new application with the necessary accompanying documents.

Keep in mind; the SSA cannot reinstate your benefits until your release. You need to provide the official proof of release from the jail or prison where you were incarcerated. Do not forget to bring your release forms when you go to your local Social Security office as its required for you to begin receiving benefits again. If you forget, your benefits will be delayed.

Does Going To Prison Affect My Medicare or Medicaid Coverage?

Going to prison will not affect your ability to qualify for Medicare Part A (hospital insurance). However, Medicare Part B (medical insurance) will end if you do not pay your monthly premiums, even if you are incarcerated. To begin Medicare Part B, submit an application with Social Security during a general enrollment window, which is from January to March of every year. If you submit an application during this enrollment window, your eligiblity for Medicare Part B will start on July 1st of that year. If your eligibility for Medicaid ended while you were incarcerated, you would have to contact your local social services office to submit an application for Medicaid coverage. The SSA will give you a referral form for you to bring to the social services office.

How To Submit An Application If You Are In Prison

Once you learn your release date, alert someone at your institution that you want to begin your SSDI or SSI benefits. If your facility has a prerelease agreement with the local Social Security office, they will contact the SSA if you are predicted to meet the requirements for SSI or SSDI benefits.  The SSA will get an application from your several months before your expected release date. This is so the SSA can start processing your application and accelerate the time it takes for you to start receiving SSDI or SSI benefits after you’ve been released.

If you are submitting an application for Social Security disability benefits, the SSA will request and collect medical documentation from your physicians to help determine if your eligibility for the Social Security’s definition of disabled remains.  Family members or a social worker can assist you by contacting the SSA and notifying them of your expected release date. A family member could also be your representative payee if your disabling condition stops you from managing your personal finances. If there is no prerelease agreement, but you know your expected release date, speak with Social Security to apply for benefits if you believe you are eligible. You can reach them at the toll-free line of 1-800-772-1213 and inform the representative that you’re expected to release from a correctional institution and want to learn about receiving Social Security benefits. During this time, have your Social Security number available as it will be needed to discuss your individual claim. The representative will schedule an appointment with your local Social Security office where you will submit your application after you’ve been released from prison.