Conviction and incarceration can affect benefits

Eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits can depend on various factors, including employment status, medical condition and monthly wages. Many people may not realize incarceration is another variable that may affect a person’s ability to collect benefits. As any disability attorney in Illinois knows, incarceration can result in the suspension of benefits. In some cases, incarceration may also affect a person’s permanent eligibility for benefits.

Current beneficiaries

SSD benefits are generally suspended if a beneficiary spends over 30 days incarcerated in jail, prison or a halfway house. However, in all of these cases, the incarceration must be due to a conviction. If a person is arrested and held for over 30 days without any conviction, the person may continue receiving benefits.

Certain Social Security benefits continue even if a beneficiary is convicted and incarcerated for over 30 days. Beneficiaries who qualify for Medicare Part A coverage continue receiving this coverage. Additionally, any benefits available to a beneficiary’s spouse, children or other dependents will continue throughout the incarceration.

When a beneficiary is incarcerated, SSD benefits are suspended, rather than terminated. However, as any disability attorney in Illinois can confirm, benefit payments don’t automatically resume when a beneficiary is released from prison. Beneficiaries must request reinstatement and furnish official release documents to the SSA.

SSD applicants

Criminal activity can affect a person’s eligibility for SSD benefits if the person did not receive benefits prior to incarceration. A person may lose the ability to collect SSD benefits under the following circumstances:

  • The person’s disabling condition developed during the commission of a felony.
  • The disabling condition originated while the person was serving time for a felony conviction.
  • The disabling condition became significantly worse during the commission of a felony or during incarceration for a felony conviction.

In all other cases, people who have been incarcerated can receive SSD benefits, provided they meet the necessary criteria. To qualify for benefits, an individual must suffer from a disabling condition that is terminal or expected to last over one year. The individual also must not be able to perform any kind of gainful work. The SSA considers a person’s ability to perform recently held jobs as well as new occupations.

Incarcerated individuals may begin the SSD benefit application process once they know their official date of release. Ideally, applicants should begin the process long before this date arrives. As any disability attorney in Illinois knows, the SSD claim review and decision process may take several months. Starting the application early can help minimize the gap between a person’s release from prison and the disbursal of benefits.