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SSA- Ex-convict Can I get SSDI or SSI benefits?

If you have been released from jail or prison you may not have stable housing, savings, or healthcare and you may have limited employment opportunities, especially if you have been convicted of a felony.
Norfolk Island jail.

To avoid returning to a life of crime, it is critical to help released convicts transition back into society. There are a variety of community organization groups, churches and government programs which can assist with this transition. Additionally, more prison systems have developed a series of transition services for the inmates and they have social workers and health care providers who will help inmates transition into the community.

One such organization, called the Release Preparation Program, is run by the Federal Bureau of Prison and helps inmates with resume writing, job searches, and job retention. According to the Federal Bureau of Prison website, “The Bureau places appropriate inmates in halfway houses prior to release to help them adjust to life in the community and find employment. Some inmates will be eligible for a release gratuity, clothing, or money for transportation to their release destination.”

One of the main complaints from inmates about community support is that some of these community based programs may have limited available space and may not be available to some released inmates.

Can I get SSA Disability benefits as an ex-convict?

Just having a criminal record or not being able to find work will not be sufficient to win SSDI or SSI benefits. To win benefits you must have a severe health condition which is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months and does not allow you to work.

So unless you can convince the SSA you are disabled and cannot work, you will not receive SSI or SSDI benefits unless you were receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) prior to incarceration and you remain disabled after your release.

Keep in mind, the Social Security Administration does not consider whether or not you can find work only if you can perform work.

The good news is that if you have a severe health condition and you cannot work for at least 12 continuous months you may qualify for SSI or SSDI (assuming you have enough work credits to be considered insured) even if you have a criminal record. A criminal record does not eliminate your right to disability benefits.

When am I not eligible for SSDI or SSI?

If you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, according to the SSA, your Social Security Disability Insurance benefits will be suspended if you are admitted for more than 30 continuous days to a jail or prison because you were convicted of a criminal offense. Your SSDI benefits will, however, be reinstated with the month following your release.

If you are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your SSI payments are suspended while you are in prison, but they may be reinstated in the month you are released. Unlike SSDI, however, if your confinement lasts for 12 consecutive months or longer, your eligibility for SSI benefits will terminate and you must file a new SSI application for benefits upon your release.

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