Q & A

Can criminals get Social Security benefits?

Complete Question: There has been a lot of talk about Social Security running out of funding to pay benefits. Have they thought about not paying benefits to criminals? Is there any law currently on the books about this?

Answer: Actually, there are some laws about not paying criminals both Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits. However, breaking the law in and of itself does not necessarily prevent someone from receiving a benefit payment.

Social Security benefits are suspended if someone is incarcerated for a criminal offense for more than 30 days. Benefits are reinstated once the person gets out of jail. During incarceration, dependents (i.e. spouses and children) can continue to receive payments. This rule applies to those who are found guilty or not guilty by reason of insanity, as well as those who are incompetent to stand trial, but are still held in an institution by court order at public expense.

In addition to incarceration, benefits should not be paid to someone who has an outstanding arrest warrant for felony offenses such as: flight to avoid prosecution or confinement; escape from custody; and/or flight-escape. A person is also not eligible for benefit payments in any month that he/she violates a condition of probation or parole.

SSI benefit rules are similar, but slightly different. If someone receiving SSI is incarcerated, benefits will stop and can be reinstated at the time the person is released; however, if the person is incarcerated for more than 12 months, eligibility for SSI will completely terminate. Therefore, when the person is released, he/she will have to reapply. The person is allowed to reapply while in prison if they have an expected release date to help speed up the process, but those benefits cannot begin until after the person has been released.

Medicare Part A continues while a person is in prison; however, Part B premiums are typically deducted from a person’s benefit payment. Therefore, the prisoner can continue to keep Part B provided that he/she is keeping up with the premium payments. Otherwise, the person will have to reapply for Part B coverage.

Research Analyst & Certified Social Security Advisor
AMAC Foundation
Notice: If you have any additional questions about Social Security eligibility, or any other Social Security question, you can reply below. If you would like to discuss your situation privately, you can email C.J. at cmiles@amacfoundation.com. Please do not provide any personal identification information, such as Social Security numbers.

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