Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a national insurance program designed to assist people who cannot work because of serious medical conditions. The payments are intended to help the disabled person meet their basic living costs.
The Social Security Administration will not pay disability benefits to someone during the time she is incarcerated if she will be jailed for 30 days or more. However, if she is on house arrest or house confinement, she can collect SSDI benefits.
What Is Social Security Disability Insurance?
Social Security is a national insurance program that provides both retirement benefits and disability insurance to American workers. If, before retirement age, a worker becomes so disabled that he is unable to work, SSDI pays him monthly benefits. He must have worked at a job for a certain period of time while paying his Social Security taxes.
To qualify for SSDI benefits, the worker also must have a serious medical condition as defined by the law, that is, a severe, long-term, total disability. The condition must:
- interfere with work to the point that the individual cannot perform normal work duties,
- be expected to last at least a year, and
- be so debilitating that the person isn’t able to perform “substantial gainful activity,” which is defined as earning more than $1,220 per month.
Read More: Disability Vs. Social Security Benefits at Retirement
Does a Criminal Lose SDI Benefits When Convicted?
A person who is receiving SSDI benefits and is convicted of a criminal offense will not automatically be disqualified from the program. A disabled felon may qualify for Social Security benefits _as long as the disability did not arise during the commission of the felony_. On the other hand, if the individual is convicted and sent to jail or prison for more than 30 days, the Social Security Administration will not pay her SSDI benefits for any month for which she is incarcerated. This includes time spent in a government halfway house.
In those circumstances, the SSA suspends her disability payments starting the month in which she is incarcerated after being convicted and sentenced. The policy also applies if she is confined by the court to a public institution because she is incompetent to stand trial or because she is found not guilty because of insanity. Again, this happens after trial, not while awaiting trial.
For example, if she is convicted of grand theft and goes to prison on July 1, 2019 for a sentence of more than 30 days, her SSDI benefits would be suspended as of July 1, 2019. If she is released to a halfway house the following year, then released on parole as of December 1, 2020, she would be eligible for the December 2020 payment.
SSDI Benefits on House Arrest/Confinement
The Social Security Administration stops SSDI payments while someone is incarcerated, because in that situation, the disabled inmate's needs are being met. His housing, food and medical needs are covered by the government during incarceration. He does not require funding to meet his basic living needs.
When a person is released to house confinement, it means that he is serving a prison sentence at home, that is, living outside the correctional institution and paying his own living costs. While the correctional institution may pay for electronic monitoring, it does not pay his rent, food or medical care. Therefore, a disabled person's benefits are reinstated, beginning the month that home confinement begins.
House arrest is another matter. It happens when someone is placed under arrest pending trial. Rather than being held in jail, he is held in his own home. During house arrest, a person's SSDI payments continue. In fact, during pre-trial jail arrest, the person's SSDI payments are not suspended either. Suspension occurs after an arrest, conviction and sentencing.
- SSA: What Prisoners Need to Know
- SSA: Benefits for People with Disabilities
- SSA: Rules for Reinstating Benefits to Prisoners
- Disability Benefits Help: Can I Keep My Benefits If I Go to Jail?
- Disability Secrets: Can You Get Disability If You've Been Convicted of a Felony Crime?
- Disability Advisor: Social Security Benefits After Criminal Conviction
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.