If you are currently receiving Social Security disability or retirement benefits, you may wonder whether you can continue to receive them should you become incarcerated. As with so many things, the short answer is: it depends.
Generally speaking, you cannot receive Social Security benefits while you are in jail, but there are exceptions. In order for your benefits to stop, you need to serve thirty continuous days in jail post-conviction. If you do not serve a full thirty days post-conviction, your benefits will remain uninterrupted; similarly, if you serve jail time prior to your conviction, your benefits will not stop until you have spent a full thirty days in jail after your conviction.
Regardless of what happens to your own benefit payments, your dependents will still receive benefits while you are in jail as long as you continue to qualify for them. For example, if you qualified for disability benefits prior to your incarceration, but your condition improves while you are in jail to the point where you are no longer disabled, your dependents’ benefits will stop just as they would if you were not serving time.
Please note: SSA cannot make payments to someone confined to an institution at the public’s expense in connection with a criminal case if the court finds that the person is: 1) not guilty by reason of insanity or similar factors; 2) guilty but insane; or 3) incompetent to stand trial for an alleged offense.
What happens when you are released? If you serve fewer than twelve months in jail, you can have your Social Security benefits reinstated the month after you are released from jail as long as you still qualify for them. To reinstate them, visit your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office with proof of your release and notify them that you are no longer serving time. In contrast, if you served time in prison longer than twelve months, you will need to reapply for benefits and go through the entire process again, including any appeals.
You may also be curious about what happens to your Medicare benefits while you are in jail, if applicable. Your Part A coverage will continue while you are incarcerated, but you must continue to pay monthly premiums for your Part B coverage. If you cannot pay the Part B premiums, coverage will lapse, but you will be able to re-enroll during the next general enrollment period.
Lastly, you may wonder if applying for Social Security disability benefits (either Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income) while in jail is a good idea. Generally, it is not considered advisable because you will not be able to attend a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), and that is often vital to the success of a claim. You should consider applying for benefits while you are still in jail if: 1) you are disabled, and you are close to your release date; and/or 2) you have dependents who would be eligible for benefits based on your disability.