Effect of Incarceration on Social Security Benefits

An individual who resides in a penal institution such as a jail or prison for a full calendar month can no longer receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Individuals who are incarcerated must notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) of their changed status with respect to the incarceration. Payments that are received in the face of a jail term lasting longer than a month will be considered over-payments and must be repaid. Though a prisoner’s social security benefits are suspended while he remains incarcerated, the payment of benefits to his eligible family members will be unaffected. With respect to SSDI benefits, individuals who are in jail awaiting trial will continue to receive their benefits until such time that they are convicted.

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Once an individual is released from incarceration, he is eligible for SSI benefits, just as anyone else, as long as he has limited income and resources and is age sixty-five or older, blind, or disabled. Additionally, an ex-prisoner will be able to receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits if he is blind, age sixty-two or older, or cannot work for at least a year due to a severe medical condition.

Some individuals are released from incarceration but subjected to ankle bracelet monitoring at their home. These individuals can have their benefits resumed, but must notify the SSA of their change in status. Like home monitoring, individuals who are released to a halfway house may also have their benefits reinstated as long as they are paying their own expenses and the halfway house is not under the control of the State Department of Corrections. The SSA will not pay an individual any benefits until he is completely released from the control of the Corrections Department.

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