Can Felons Receive Social Security? Yes, But With Exceptions
The general rule is that a person who is convicted of a felony can still receive Social Security benefits once they are released. However, like every rule, there are exceptions. A felony conviction will deem you ineligible to receive Social Security Disability Benefits if:
- Your disability was caused by your felonious act
- Your disability was made worse by your felonious act
- Your disability arose while you were imprisoned for committing a felony
- You were convicted of treason, sabotage, or a similar crime
You Can’t Receive Survivors’ Benefits by Killing a Spouse or Parent
In addition, if you became a widow or orphan by killing your spouse or parent, you are ineligible to receive Social Security survivors’ benefits. In sum, just because you were convicted of a felony in the past, does not mean that you are ineligible to receive Social Security benefits. Rather, you simply must meet the general criterion for qualifying. For social security, this means you are either 65 or older, or blind, or have a qualifying disability, or have little to no income or financial resources.
Social Security Unavailable for Felons Currently in Prison
As for felons who are currently imprisoned, Social Security benefits are not available. The rationale behind this rule is while imprisoned, the person’s food, shelter, and medicine are being paid for already.
Those that received Social Security Disability benefits prior to becoming imprisoned will have their benefits suspended during imprisonment, but benefits will be reinstated 30 days after they are released. Please note if you are in jail for part of a month you lose that month’s benefits.
Say you were sentenced to 45 days and the sentence starts on June 29. You lose benefits for June, July, and August. So, the sentence and timing are very important.
No Need To Re-File for Disability Benefits if Suspended for Less than a Year
A person does not need to file a new disability application if their benefits have been suspended for less than one year. However, if they were imprisoned for more than one year, a new disability application is required.
You Can Apply While In Prison
A convicted felon serving time is prison may be able to apply for benefits while still imprisoned if the penal institution has a pre-release application procedure. If not, they must wait until they are released to apply for Social Security benefits.
If you or someone you know has questions about how criminal convictions may affect one’s ability to receive Social Security benefits, Brian Manchester has been practicing criminal law for 18 years, and can be contacted at 1-800-243-4878.