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SSDI and SSI and Prison

The Social Security Administration administers two programs which offer cash assistance to claimants who are disabled and unable to work: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
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Applicants on our disability forum have asked, “What happens to my disability benefits if I am sent to jail or prison?” Many disability recipients are surprised to find that their SSDI or SSI benefits stop while they are in prison. This blog will address when your benefits will be suspended if you are sent to jail or prison.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and prison

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA) how your Social Security Disability payments are suspended will depend on whether you are receiving SSI or SSDI benefits.

Claimants who are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will have their disability benefits stopped if they are in jail for a full calendar month. For example,if you were in jail on March 21, 2001 and you stay there to serve a three-month sentence, your check will stop beginning with April 2001.

The Social Security Administration notes, however, that you may be able to reinstate your benefits after you are released from jail, assuming you were incarcerated for less than one year, by bringing proof of your release to your local Social Security Administration office.

Another option is to begin the “pre-release procedure” to re-start your benefits before you are released from prison.

To start the SSI process before your prison release

  1. Ask the prison staff whether there is a “Pre-Release Agreement” between the jail or prison and the Social Security Administration. If there is they may be able to help you with the process.

  2. If there is not a pre-release agreement you may have to contact the SSA for the specific steps to take to reinstate your benefits.

What if your incarceration was for more than 12 consecutive months? The news is not quite so bright. In fact, if you are incarcerated for more than 12 consecutive months your SSI has been terminated by the Social Security Administration and you will have to submit a new SSI application to the SSA.

Keep in mind, there are many SSI applicants who receive SSI, are sent to prison and lose their SSI, resubmit a new SSI application and then fight for weeks, months or years to have their SSI benefits reinstated.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Prison

SSDI recipients who are convicted of a crime and who are sent to jail will have their SSDI benefits suspended if they remain in jail for more than 30 continuous days following their until you are conviction date. What if you are in jail awaiting your trial? You will continue to get your SSDI check until you are convicted of a crime.

The following example is provided by the SSA on their website

For example, if you were in jail on March 21, 2001 and were convicted of a crime on March 29, 2001, and you stay there to serve a six-month sentence, your benefits will stop beginning with your March 2001 check which is the check you receive in April 2001.

Reinstatement of your SSDI benefits can be initiated upon release from jail or prison and the recipient will remain “on the rolls” regardless of their prison sentence (although they will not receive SSDI benefits while in prison). Additionally, auxiliary benefits, which are paid to eligible family members such as a spouse or child, can continue to be paid even while the recipient is in prison).
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