Can I Receive Disability if I Have Been Convicted of a Felony?

Published on: January 2, 2018

Can I Receive Disability if I have been Convicted of a Felony

When you apply for Social Security disability benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) typically will want to know more about your current situation so they can determine your eligibility. An application will contain requests for birth records, employment history, educational background, medical records, and criminal records.

You may be wondering why the SSA needs to know about your criminal background history. If you have committed a felony, it can affect your eligibility to receive benefits in several ways.

In order to answer the question “can felons get disability benefits?” let’s explore the various factors that can influence or determine eligibility for benefits for convicted felons.

Persons Incarcerated or Evading Arrest

If you are currently incarcerated for a felony conviction, you cannot receive disability benefits while in prison. If you were already receiving benefits prior to your arrest, your benefits will be suspended after a period of 30 days into your incarceration period.

Persons who are released from custody in fewer than 12 months can have their benefits reinstated without submitting a new application. However, individuals who are incarcerated for more than 12 months will have to apply afresh after their release. You will have to keep the SSA regularly updated with the dates that you were incarcerated and released.

During your time in jail, your family members may still be eligible to receive benefits based on your accumulated work credits. Most felons also can apply for benefits after they’re convicted of a felony and released; however, you are not automatically eligible after your release. All benefits are paid the month after your release from prison.

If you’re evading arrest for committing a crime, you cannot apply for disability benefits from the SSA. This applies to all persons who are avoiding prosecution, have escaped from law enforcement custody, or are engaged in active flight-escape. As a result, the SSA will not pay benefits for any month that someone has an active warrant for their arrest.

Persons Who Obtain a Disability Around When They Commit a Crime

If you happen to sustain a disability (or have a previous condition worsened) as a result of committing a crime, you cannot apply for disability benefits for that particular condition. Any disability that is obtained at a time and place that is close to the commission of a crime will automatically disqualify you from applying for benefits associated with that disability.

You should note that there doesn’t have to be a direct causative relationship between the offense and the disability, as long as the two events occurred at a close time and in a close place. If it is determined that your disability occurred as a result of committing a crime, you will be permanently banned from applying for benefits associated with that disability.

In some cases, you may have already had a disability prior to committing a felony. If there is documentation proving this disability and its onset date, you can apply for benefits related to that particular disability after being released from prison.

Persons Who Become Disabled While Serving a Prison Sentence

In some cases, you may develop a disability while serving time in prison. If this disabling condition arises from your time while incarcerated, or if a pre-existing condition is worsened while in prison, you can apply for disability benefits pending your release from prison.

The SSA will typically put a “freeze” on your benefits, meaning that you can only begin collecting your benefits after your release. This remains true even if you have to be moved to a different location to obtain necessary care while serving a prison sentence.

At the time of your release, you will need to submit a new disability application. The SSA will also consider your current medical condition, any improvements observed, and to what extent the disabling condition prevents you from participating in any substantial gainful activity.

Persons Under Probation or Parole

If you are under parole/probation, you may still be eligible to receive benefits for an ongoing disability. However, if you violate the terms of your parole, you immediately become ineligible for receiving disability benefits for the period that you’re held in violation.

To tie it all up, your eligibility for receiving benefits as a felon will depend on whether you’re serving a prison sentence, evading a conviction, are under parole, or have obtained a disability as a result of committing a crime. A felony conviction can have a considerable impact on the ability of apply for disability social security benefits for ex felons. however, it does not always mean an automatic denial of benefits.


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