How Criminal Convictions Affect Social Security Benefits

October 3, 2018By Brian Manchester

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. 

Posted in: Criminal Defense Blog , Felony or Misdemeanor Charges

Tags: felon, Felony, Felony Charges, social security,

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About the Author

Brian Manchester is the owner of Manchester and Associates in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. His law firm practices DUI and Criminal Defense exclusively throughout the entire state of Pennsylvania in both state and federal court. He has a team of two other lawyers with a combined 50 years of trial and courtroom experience are also trained in science and many other skills that are relevant to criminal defense to include the psychology of persuasion as well. One of his associates is a former District Attorney (chief prosecutor) in central Pennsylvania.   Mr. Manchester and his team routinely handle serious felony cases including murder, manslaughter, sex crimes, complex financial crimes, and serious assaults. A large part of Mr. Manchester’s practice is the defense of alcohol and drug-based DUI offenses as well as drug cases using science and analytical chemistry. Mr. Manchester has training as a Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Instructor. He is one of a handful of Certified Lawyer-Scientists as recognized by the American Chemical Society in the United States. He is a member of NCDD and is a Founding Member of DUIDLA. He is also a member of the American Chemical Society with over 170,000 members across the world. To date, he is the only practicing criminal defense lawyer to belong to the Society of Forensic Toxicologist where he is an Associate Member. Mr. Manchester speaks nationally on the topic of blood and drug testing for alcohol as well as the metrological (measurement uncertainty) in forensic testing.

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