Monday, November 10, 2014

Jail Time and Social Security Disability

Felony convictions can affect your Social Security Disability benefits.  In most instances, a felony will not automatically disqualify you from applying but, serious criminal offenses can result in a suspension of benefits or in loosing your claim.  Here are some examples on how spending time in jail and/or being convicted of a felony can affect your benefits:
  • You will be denied benefits if the agency finds that your disability was caused or it was made worse because you carried out a criminal offense classified as a felony.  (For example, you cannot claim that you are disabled because you were shot while robbing a bank.)  Moreover, you do not have a valid claim if you allege that your disability arose or became worse while you were imprisoned.  (I get calls on this one all the time.  I get inquiries like: "I suffer from PTSD because I was incarcerated".  Forget it.  I can't help anyone with that type of claim.  It just doesn't work.)
  • If you are receiving SSD, your benefits will stop 30 days after the commencement of an incarceration.  You get free food and shelter while in prison.  Don't expect other programs such as SSDI or SSI to pick up the bill.  Your benefits will be reinstated if you get out of jail before a period of 12 months.  However, if you spend more than 12 months in jail, you will have to re-apply and go through the whole application process all over again.      
My advise to all claimants is to stay out of trouble.  I have successfully represented claimants whose benefits have been terminated because they were incarcerated.  However, I must be frank and state clearly that, in most circumstances, I cannot take these type of cases.  I only get paid if I win and these cases are a huge risk for any Social Security Disability Lawyer.  

Finally, if you were caught dealing drugs or committing an economic crime while receiving SSI or SSDI, you probably will not have much of my sympathy.  (And I'm probably going to yell at you when I take your call!)  I take pride in what I do and feel offended when I see that money that is designated for those who are severely disabled is being wasted or misused.