As a general rule of thumb, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will not pay benefits to someone who is incarcerated. Please read below:

Why are disability payments denied (if applicant) or suspended (if recipient) when someone is incarcerated?

  • Disability benefits are intended to provide a disabled person with funds to meet their basic living expenses.
  • If a person is incarcerated, their basic living expenses and medical care are going to be met by the Department of Corrections.

How long does someone have to be in jail before their Social Security disability benefits stop?

  • If someone is in jail for longer than one month, their Social Security disability benefits will stop being paid.
  • A new applicant will not receive disability benefits if they have been incarcerated longer than thirty (30) days.

Does someone have to re-apply for benefits once they are released from jail?

  • Once an individual has been released from jail, it is possible that they will be able to resume the payment of their disability benefits without the need to re-apply for those benefits.
  • SSI Benefits – If an individual receives SSI benefits and serves less than 12 months in jail, he or she may be entitled to the reinstatement of their SSI benefits without the need for an application.  However, if an SSI recipient is incarcerated longer than 12 months, a new application must be submitted.
  • SSDI Benefits – If an individual was receiving SSDI benefits prior to their incarceration, those benefits will resume once the individual has been released as long as they are still disabled.  Unlike SSI benefits, there is no 12-month rule that is applied to SSDI benefits.

Important – it is the responsibility of the individual to notify SSA of their release.  If you are working with a patient who lost their benefits due to incarceration, you must determine whether they were a recipient of SSI or SSDI benefit payments.  SSI recipients may have to re-apply for benefits whereas SSDI recipients do not.