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Felony record why is it not a disability if I cannot get a job?

I am a felon. Am I disabled?


Many felons or ex-convicts leave prison with a felony record but a desire to find a good job and start a new life. Months later when they have not been able to find a job it’s not unusual to be discouraged and to either consider re-entering a life a crime or trying to find government assistance. Recently on our disability forum we had an ex-convict ask, “I cannot get a job because I am a felon. Is this considered a disability?”


How do you know if you are disabled if you have a felony record?


The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a very specific definition for disabled. First, do you have a condition which is so severe you cannot perform substantial gainful activity? Are you currently working? Is your condition severe? Will your condition last at least 12 continuous months? If you do not meet the requirements of the SSA you will be automatically denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

Unfortunately, none of their criteria allows for an ex-con to get SSI or SSDI simply because they are unable to get a job due to their felony status.

Can an ex-convict get SSDI or SSI benefits if they are a felon?


To clarify, it is possible for an ex-convict to qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits, but they must be disabled. If you simply cannot find a job the SSA will not care. They will determine you are automatically NOT disabled. So if you are an ex-convict and you have a severe mental disorder such as PTSD or you have a severe physical condition such as kidney failure you may qualify for benefits even as a convict.

Where can I get help if I am a felon?


The good news is that many states are starting to implement employment practices, enact policies to restore civil rights and expand access to public benefits for convicts. In fact, last year legislatures in at least 29 states adopted policies that may contribute to prison population decreases and reduce the consequences of convictions.

There are also many small business owners who are willing to hire ex-convicts. In fact, many businesses may qualify for tax breaks or tax credits if they hire an ex-prisoner.

The major concern for everyone should be the recidivism rate of felons. Criminal justice experts understand that if you make it impossible for ex-convicts to find work or get housing it is a virtual certainty the convict may commit more crimes, something that all of us should be concerned with.

Hiring a disability lawyer as a felon


As mentioned above, if you can do work than you do not need to apply for SSDI or SSI benefits. These are federal disability benefits that are only for workers who are permanently disabled (for at least 12 continuous months) and who cannot perform work.

What if you do have a severe health condition? Being a felon may not necessarily disqualify you from getting disability help.

Consider, however, not all convicts will qualify for SSI or SSDI. If, for instance, you were injured while committing a felony and were convicted of the crime you may not qualify for disability benefits.
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