What Happens to my Disability Benefits After Going to Jail?

Submitted by Deanna on

The Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) disability programs provide essential income for disabled individuals, and in some cases, also pay dependent or auxiliary benefits to family members of the disabled. These benefits become a cornerstone of family finances when a wage earner is no longer able to work due to disability. Families come to depend on this income to meet their everyday needs, but what happens when a disability recipient goes to jail?

Social Security Disability Eligibility when Sentenced to Jail Time

A jail or prison sentence affects disability benefits in different ways, based on the crime for which you’re convicted and the length of your sentence. Criminal offenses affect disability benefits, but non-criminal offenses do not.

If you are convicted of a criminal offense, then the SSA will suspend your benefits if your sentence is 30-consecutive days or longer. If your jail time is shorter, then your benefits remain in effect, even while you serve your sentence. If convicted of a non-criminal offense, your disability is unaffected, even if you serve a 30-day or longer sentence.

Criminal Convictions and Benefit Type

Benefits come in multiple forms, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and auxiliary or dependent benefits, which can be paid through SSI or SSDI. A jail or prison sentence for a criminal offense that exceeds 30 days affects each type of benefit differently.

With SSI, you will not receive payments during your prison sentence of 30-days or longer. However, your benefits can be reinstated in the same month in which you are released from jail, as long as your sentence wasn’t 12-months or longer. If your sentence was a year or longer, then you will need to reapply for SSI after you serve your time.

With SSDI, your benefits are suspended during your 30-day or longer jail sentence, but reinstatement is available in the month following your release. The SSA may need to verify you are still disabled and still eligible for benefits upon your release though, especially if your prison sentence was lengthy.

Dependents that receive auxiliary SSDI and/or SSI continue to get benefits as usual, even if your benefits are suspended. In other words, if your spouse or minor children get dependent benefits because you’re disabled, their benefits are unaffected by your jail sentence as long as you and they remain eligible.

Medicaid and Medicare Eligibility and Jail Time

Disability recipients are often covered by Medicare and/or Medicaid. Your Medicare Part A coverage continues while you serve your sentence, regardless of sentence length. Medicare Part B continues too, as long as you pay your premiums. Medicaid coverage can continue during your sentence as well. If your eligibility for Medicaid ends during your jail time, you can reapply upon release from prison.

Getting Help with Eligibility Concerns, Reinstatement, or Reapplication

Some prisons have agreements with the SSA to provide eligibility, application, and reinstatement assistance programs. You can take advantage of any program like this that exists at the institution where you serve your time. A disability attorney or advocate can also assist you with eligibility concerns, getting benefits reinstated, or in reapplying after your release.

Blog comments

Love (not verified)

I know someone who has been

I know someone who has been in jail several times. This person has never turned it in to S.S. that he was in jail. He has been in jail more than a month. S.S. needs to look at his criminal background. He gets SSI .

Wed, 07/20/2016 - 01:27 Permalink
Concerned (not verified)

what about people who are in

what about people who are in jail longer than 30 days but never convicted- can they draw while in jail and when they get out -charges dropped- no conviction -innocent until guilty?

Wed, 12/27/2017 - 14:03 Permalink

In reply to by Concerned (not verified)

Hi There,

Hi There,

They cannot draw in while incarcerated. Their benefits will be paused, but they can resume when they are released.

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 09:26 Permalink
Rome (not verified)

In reply to by Eric

I let them know I was out

I let them know I was out nov2 still no answer and I have a permanent disability it's a tho how long should it take

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 21:46 Permalink

In reply to by Rome (not verified)

Hi There,

Hi There,

I really can't say for sure, I would recommend speaking with someone at the SSA regarding that.

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 09:42 Permalink
JOSIE CONTRERAS (not verified)



Mon, 07/01/2019 - 13:38 Permalink
David scott (not verified)

If I file a back claim for

If I file a back claim for when I was in jail but was all dismissed but I had to stay in jail for 30 months will I loose my current ssdi

Mon, 07/01/2019 - 16:32 Permalink
mother/child (not verified)

if childsupport is received

if childsupport is received from Disability check that the father receives and he is incarcerated for more than 30 days possible prison time will childsupport end?

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 17:23 Permalink

In reply to by mother/child (not verified)

Hi There,

Hi There,

If your child is receiving auxiliary benefits from the father, then the auxiliary benefits should continue as long as the father still qualifies.

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 16:16 Permalink
Tammy Burton (not verified)

If a person is arrested and

If a person is arrested and has disability benefits will is it still like that today where the person can be in jail for 30 consecutive days without there benefits being cancelled.

Sat, 01/18/2020 - 16:29 Permalink

In reply to by Tammy Burton (not verified)

Hi Tammy,

Hi Tammy,

If he is receiving SSI, if he has been incarcerated for 30 days or more then his benefits will stop. If he is receiving SSDI, the benefits will stop 30 days after being convicted.

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 16:33 Permalink

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