There are certain criteria that may jeopardize an individual’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits or make him/her ineligible for benefits. Some specific situations that would cause an individual to become ineligible include, but are not limited to escape from custody, flight to avoid prosecution or confinement, or flight-escape. Felony convictions alone will not keep an individual from being eligible or approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
If an individual who receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) goes to prison or jail or other institutions such as correctional institutions, detention centers, halfway hours, or boot camps; the individual will be ineligible to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for any full calendar month he/she is incarcerated. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are either suspended or terminated. If the recipient’s benefits are suspended (being in prison/jail for more than thirty (30) continuous days) he/she is able to have his/her benefits reinstated starting with the month following the month of his/her release given that the recipient provides required documentation the Social Security Administration (SSA). If the recipient of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is incarcerated for twelve (12) consecutive months or more, his/her eligibility for Supplemental Security benefits will be terminated and a new application must be filed after his/her release.
In addition, individuals who received benefits prior to being incarcerated are not automatically eligible after being released. The individual incarcerated will not receive benefits while incarcerated, but the individual’s spouse or children will continue to receive the benefits as long as they (spouse and/or children) remain eligible.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) cannot pay any retroactive payments for benefits due before the individual was incarcerated. The retroactive payments will be “on hold” until the individual is able to provide the Social Security Administration (SSA) proof that he/she in no longer in prison or jail.
A prerelease procedure allows an individual to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) several months before his/her expected release from prison or jail. This is beneficial to consider so that benefits can begin quickly after the individual’s release.
There could possibly be a prerelease agreement with the institution and the local Social Security Office. Under the agreement, Social Security assists and provides the staff in the institution guidance on how to properly complete a prerelease procedure.
For more information or clarification, the Social Security Administration (SSA) provides an informative pamphlet, “What Prisoners Need to Know,” which is available online.
William E. Lindahl, MBA, CLPF