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Keefe Disability Law
Social Security Disability & Supplemental Security Income
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How the SSA Disability Process Works for Incarcerated Claimants


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12/21/2016
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Hands between prison barsThe Social Security Administration (SSA) has many rules on who can receive disability and why. In addition to the eligibility requirements, the SSA has mandated payment restrictions as well. One of these restrictions includes the fact that you can’t receive disability funds if you’ve been convicted of a crime and sent to a prison or other publicly-funded institution. Furthermore, if you had been previously approved for disability and had been receiving payments before your conviction, your benefits will be suspended for up to a year.

If your sentence exceeds the suspension period, reinstatement of benefits will require a new application and approval process. However, if your prison sentence is less than 30 consecutive days, the SSA may make an exception and delay the suspension.

Although current prisoners aren’t allowed to receive disability benefits, there are still eligibility options for prior inmates and the families of those incarcerated.

Disability Benefits for Family Members

Once you’re incarcerated, the options for your family to receive disability support from your condition depends on your claim and the following terms:

  • If you were receiving benefits prior to your arrest and your family was receiving additional support from your claim, they’ll continue to receive their payments even though your benefits have been suspended.
  • If you were not receiving benefits at the time of your arrest, your family cannot receive benefits based on your disability. However, if your spouse is eligible for benefits, your incarceration will not affect his or her chances for approval.

Disability for Prior Inmates

Once you have served your time, your previous disability benefits can be reinstated. Depending on the amount of time spent in jail, you’ll most likely have to reapply for disability approval. This is a good opportunity to update your claim with any additional complaints or deteriorations of health due to your incarceration.

If the SSA board approves your claim, your benefits will be reinstated, and payments will begin starting the month following your release date. By law, the SSA cannot provide you benefits for any month in which you were still confined in prison. Therefore, if your release date was December 1st, your disability will not begin until January. 

Filing for Reinstatement

To avoid costly delays, you may be able to begin the disability reinstatement process before your actual release date. Inquire if the prison has a pre-release agreement with the Social Security Administration. If it does, once you learn your release date you can begin the disability application process by:

  • Notifying the facility. Once notified, your institution will contact the SSA and discuss whether you’re likely to meet the disability requirements. It will also provide you with the necessary application and send it to the SSA.
  • Filing an application. Once you’ve completed your application and sent it to the SSA, they’ll begin the eligibility process. Since the process can take several weeks of investigation, it’s important to file your application within 90 days of your release date. A disability attorney, family member, or social worker can help with the process by informing the SSA of your upcoming release.

If the prison does not have a pre-release agreement with the Social Security Administration, contact the SSA directly at 1-800-772-1213. A representative can be reached Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to set up an appointment. To prepare for your appointment, you’ll need to:

  • Schedule an appointment to apply for benefits after your release.
  • Provide your release information, including the name of the facility, the release date, and how long you were incarcerated.
  • Provide documentation of your release, including the official prison release documents.

For more information on your or your family’s eligibility for Social Security benefits, contact us at 508-283-5500 or have a loved one visit our Framingham office today to schedule a complimentary consultation. Remember, you’ve served your time, there’s no need to keep paying for your mistake by jeopardizing your right to disability. Contact us today and see how we can help.



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