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Can a Criminal Conviction Prevent Me From Receiving Social Security Benefits?


Social Security benefits are an important resource for those injured in a workplace accident. Receiving Social Security Disability benefits can be vital for those unable to work, but the Social Security Administration has guidelines for the receipt of those benefits. The Social Security Administration considers an injured worker disabled for the purpose of receiving benefits if:

  • The injured worker cannot do work that they did before;
  • The Social Security Administration decides that the injured worker cannot adjust to other work because of their disability; and
  • The disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

However, even if they meet the above criteria, some injured workers question whether a criminal conviction can hurt their chances of receiving such benefits.

After a criminal conviction, you are still eligible for Social Security benefits, according to the Social Security Administration. Regardless of your conviction, you can still receive Social Security benefits. However, you are not eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if your disability arose while committing a felony or while incarcerated. 

Another issue some injured workers encounter is whether their social security benefits will be disallowed if they incur a criminal conviction. The Social Security Administration will not pay you during periods of incarceration. If a person receiving social security benefits is confined in a jail, prison, or other penal institution for more than 30 continuous days, their benefits will be suspended. Social Security benefits usually are not paid to someone who commits a crime and is confined to an institution by court order and at public expense. This applies if the person has been found:

  • Not guilty by reason of insanity or similar factors (such as mental disease, mental defect or mental incompetence); or
  • Incompetent to stand trial.
  • If you violate a condition of parole or probation you must inform Social Security that you have violated a condition of your probation or parole imposed under federal or state law. You cannot receive regular disability benefits or any underpayment that may be due for any month in which you violate a condition of your probation or parole.

You must inform Social Security right away if you are convicted of a crime. Regular disability benefits or any underpayments that may be due are not paid for the months a person is confined for a crime, but any family members who are eligible for benefits based on that person’s work may continue to receive monthly benefits or any underpayments that may be due. Family members will not receive Social Security benefits if you were not awarded those benefits before incarceration. However, family members will continue to receive benefits if they received those benefits on your record prior to incarceration. Family members who are eligible to receive benefits on your record include:

  • The injured worker’s child who is under age 18, or severely disabled before age 22, or
  • The Injured worker’s wife who is age 62 or older or is caring for their child who is under age 16 or severely disabled before age 22.

If benefits are stopped, it is possible to restart them upon leaving incarceration. Certain prisons hold a prerelease program agreement with the Social Security Administration. If your prison is one of them, you or the prison’s representative may begin the process of restarting payments by contacting the Social Security Administration 90 days before your scheduled release date. Otherwise, if your prison does not hold a prerelease program agreement, you should contact the Social Security Administration after your release. If you are transferred from prison to a halfway house, you are still considered incarcerated by the Social Security Administration. However, if you are placed on home monitoring and ordered to wear an ankle bracelet, you are eligible to receive benefits again, as you are considered released from incarceration by the Social Security Administration.

When you contact the Social Security Administration and are connected to a representative, inform them you were released from prison and they will provide you with further instructions. You should bring your official prison release documents to your appointment with the Administration as proof of your release. Please note that release from incarceration does not automatically restart benefits, however, the Social Security Administration may be able to restart benefits within the month after the month of release.

If you are released from incarceration and the court reverses your conviction, the Social Security Administration can restart your disability benefits. However, the court must agree not to prosecute you again on the same charges. If you are retired on the same charges, the court must find you not guilty in order to have your benefits restarted. If you or a loved on has questions about SSDI, feel free to contact our office at The Bainbridge Firm to discuss your claim. 

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