Being incarcerated often means losing out on the benefits you might have taken for granted on the outside. If you were receiving Social Security disability or SSI benefits, then you might want to know what happens to those benefits once you're behind bars. Read on to learn what happens to your benefits before, during, and after your stint in prison.
Your Benefits Freeze While You're Serving Time
From the moment you walk through those prison gates, it's only a matter of time before your Social Security disability and SSI benefits come to a temporary end. Here are a few important facts to know about your benefits while you serve time:
- Any incoming disability or SSI payments will be suspended within 30 days of being officially incarcerated.
- If you're not currently receiving disability or SSI benefits, then you may find yourself ineligible to receive these benefits as long as you're incarcerated.
- Your disability and SSI benefits may remain suspended for up to a year. Afterwards, you could be at risk of losing your benefits altogether.
Right about now, you're probably wondering why you're losing out on your Social Security disability and SSI benefits while you're incarcerated. The simple answer is that your disability and SSI benefits are a form of supplemental income that helps you meet your basic needs, including shelter, food and medical care. Once you're incarcerated, that responsibility shifts to your local corrections department. It could be argued by the Social Security Administration that since your basic needs are being met through the prison system, there's no need to continue paying out benefits to incarcerated individuals.
There is an exception to the rule, however. If you participate in an approved vocational rehabilitation program throughout your incarceration, you may be able to receive your disability and SSI benefits as long as the terms of the rehabilitation program are met.
If you're concerned about losing your retirement benefits during your time in prison, you may be able to apply for a disability freeze before you start serving your sentence. A disability freeze effectively prevents your retirement benefits from shrinking after long periods spent earning little to no income.
Your Spouse and Children May Continue to Receive Benefits
Although you won't be able to benefit from your Social Security disability and SSI benefits while you're in prison, your family may remain eligible to receive these benefits. The SSA will continue to pay benefits to your dependent spouse and/or children. However, they must remain eligible to receive these payments throughout your incarceration.
You Can Restart Your Benefits After Prison
After serving your time, you'll be able to resume any disability or SSI benefits that were suspended during your incarceration. However, if it's been over a year since your benefits were suspended, the SSA may require you to resubmit an application for benefits. Fortunately, your eligibility for Social Security benefits won't be impacted by your felony conviction. Even if you're on parole or participating in a home monitoring program, you'll be able to receive your benefits as long as you remain compliant with the terms of your parole or home confinement.
If you transition from prison to a halfway house, however, you won't be able to receive any Social Security benefits until your release. The same condition also applies if you're transferred to a mental health care facility during your prison term. In most cases, you won't be able to reapply for your benefits until you've been released from the facility in question.
Putting your life back together in the aftermath of incarceration isn't an easy task. Fortunately, a Social Security disability attorney, such as those at The Nelson Law Firm LLC, will be able to help restore your benefits so you can get back on your feet.