It’s funny how pop-culture can impact the types of questions we are asked at the office. Since the popular Netflix original series Orange is the New Black has returned, we have received quite a few questions about individuals curious about what would happen to their benefits if they went to prison. Before we get too deep into this subject, the people asking us about this are not criminals. I am willing to bet most haven’t even taken a pen from a bank. Rather, they are just curious. Or, they like to be prepared because you never know what may happen in your future. Thankfully, the SSA makes this info relatively easy to obtain.
One of the first things to keep in mind is that the length of time you are incarcerated is important. For instance, if you are arrested one evening and held overnight for a small crime, your benefits likely will not be impacted. In fact, according to regulations, you must be incarcerated or at least 30 days before your benefits will be discontinued. Your benefits may be reinstated after your release.
The SSA goes on to state: Although you can’t receive monthly Social Security benefits while you’re incarcerated, benefits to your spouse or children will continue as long as they remain eligible. If you’re receiving SSI, your payments are suspended while you’re in prison. Your payments can be reinstated in the month you’re released. However, if your confinement lasts for 12 consecutive months or longer, your eligibility for SSI benefits will terminate and you must file a new application for benefits.
If you haven’t filed for Social Security benefits before, you can while you are in prison with a few rules. If your institution has a prerelease agreement with the local Social Security office, it will notify the SSA if you’re likely to meet the requirements for SSI or disability benefits. The SSA will get an application from you several months before your anticipated release. That way, they can begin processing your application and your benefits can start as soon as possible after your release. If you’re filing for benefits based on disability, the SSA will gather medical evidence from your doctors to help them decide whether you still meet Social Security’s definition of disability. Family members or a social worker can help you by contacting Social Security to let the SSA know about your upcoming release. A family member also may be willing to serve as your representative payee if your medical condition prevents you from handling your own finances.
If you’ve been released from prison, and have questions about filing for benefits, give us a call for a free consultation. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you don’t have time to talk now, fill out this form so that we may call you at a better time.