Do Felons Get Social Security?

Once you begin to transition back into the mainstream, you can once again reassert yourself in obtaining your rightful benefits. The Federal Interagency Re-entry Council partners with federal agencies so felons can find gainful employment and obtain assistance for food, shelter and health care.

What is Covered:

  • Social Security Eligibility and SSI Benefits: A Quick Overview
  • Social Security – Available to Felons
  • When SS Payments Stop after Incarceration
  • Reinstituting SS Benefits after Incarceration
  • When Felons Cannot Receive SS Benefits
  • When Survivor Benefits for SS are Disallowed
  • When Benefits are Reduced
  • Violations that Stop the Payment of SS or SSI Payments

Social Security Eligibility and Supplemental Security Income Benefits

With respect to Social Security, felons may be eligible for Social Security survivors, disability or retirement benefits if they have paid into the Social Security system for a specific length of time.   Obviously in order to do that you need to be employed and pay into social security, and our guide will help you do that. SSI (Supplemental Security) income benefits are available to individuals who are blind, have a disability or who are 65 years old or older who do not make an income or have little or no resources.

How Social Security Defines a Disability

Social Security defines a disability as an instance where the injury or condition disables you from performing the work you did before the disability where you cannot acclimate yourself to another type of job. The disability is expected to last or as has lasted at least a year or is expected to result in the individual’s eventual demise.

Social Security is Available to Felons

While Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are made to felons, they are not issued to most prisoners. The benefits are temporarily discontinued if an otherwise eligible individual is incarcerated continuously for over a month for the conviction of a crime. The Social Security Administration or SSA cannot pay out benefits to anyone who, by court order, is confined at public expense to an institution that houses inmates convicted of crimes.

Social Security Payments are Not Made to Prisoners in Correctional Facilities

Generally, the SSA will not pay out Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments to recipients during confinement for a criminal activity, whether they are housed in a prison, jail or similar correctional facility.

When SS Payments Stop after Incarceration

If a prisoner receives SS or SSI payments prior to incarceration, the payments will stop after a month of imprisonment. The remittances, however, are reinstated in the month of the prison release date. Anyone who is imprisoned for at least 12 consecutive months will have to file another application and, again be approved for Social Security benefits or SSI.

Again, any person who is incarcerated for over 30 continuous days after the conviction for a crime then will not receive SS benefits while they are in confinement. However, any benefits that are paid to an inmate’s children or spouse will continue if they are eligible.

Reinstituting SS Benefits after Incarceration

Any felon who wishes to re-start his/her benefits and payments following their release from prison needs to initiate the process by visiting their local Social Security office with a document that shows and proves their release.

If a release will soon be forthcoming, the beneficiary needs to sign a pre-release agreement with the SSA. The signing should take place 90 days before the scheduled prison release.

Otherwise, once you are out of prison, you can call and inform Social Security that you are no longer incarcerated. Make an appointment with the SSA to institute your SSA payments. Always bring proof of your release to an SSA office.

When Felons Cannot Collect SSDI Benefits

Generally, felony convictions do not have any effect on the eligibility for SSI or Social Security benefits. However, that being said, there are some exceptions you need to note.

For example, you will not be eligible for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) if the disability came about when you were involved in the commission of a felony. You also cannot claim SSDI if the disability happened during your incarceration.

When Social Security (Survivor’s Benefits) are Disallowed

Social Security benefits are also not given to felons who became orphaned or widowed after killing their parent(s) or spouse.

With the noted exceptions in mind, you should still apply for SSDI – even if you cannot collect the benefits in the form of cash. Although you won’t receive cash benefits, you are still allowed a disability period where your earnings income for social security stop, thereby preventing any reduction in any retirement or dependent benefits.

When Benefits are Reduced

In some instances, convictions for specific federal offenses that involve subversive activities, such as sabotage or treason or similar subversive crimes, can restrict your eligibility for SSDI. In response, courts are authorized to direct that wages paid during or before a quarter in which a conviction happened can be subtracted from the SSDI amount.

Violations that Stop the Payment of SS or SSI Payments

One exception with respect to the receipt of benefits pertains to felons who escape. Convicted felons who escape from prison are not allowed to receive benefits. Any outstanding warrants for the following activities prevent felons from receiving SS or SSI payouts.

  • Flight to avoid confinement or prosecution;
  • Flight escape; or
  • An escape from custody.

No benefits will be paid either for any month you are violating terms of your probation or parole.

Overall, if you are, for the most part, a model prisoner, you will find that collecting social security benefits or SSI payments to be fairly easy. Prisoners, not felons, usually give up their privilege of receiving benefits or payouts from the SSA.  If you have been released from incarceration and want to get your social security benefits, go to your local office and reapply, you should be able to receive them.

Do you think it’s fair that felons are eligible for social security benefits?  Why or why not?  Let us know in the comments below.


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  • NO, I do not think it’s fair… after all “Do what thou wilt, but Harm None!” We all have a choice, and people can change, but what’s done is done. We must all live with our choices, good or bad, for the rest of our lives.

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