Do I Qualify for Disability Benefits if I Have Prior Criminal Convictions?

March 6, 2020
Dayes Law Firm

If you were recently arrested or have a criminal history, you may be wondering how this may impact your eligibility for disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will need to know more about your current situation in order to make a determination.

The disability attorneys at Dayes Law Firm further explain when a criminal conviction may impact your claim. If you need help applying for benefits or have been denied because of a prior conviction, we may be able to assist. Request a free consultation to get started.

Eligibility for People With Felonies

The general rule is that a felony conviction does not impact a claimant’s or recipient’s ability to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits.

However, a conviction for certain crimes can limit your eligibility, such as:

  • Treason
  • Sabotage
  • Similar crimes involving subversive activities

In these cases, the court can order that the wages you received in the quarter when you were convicted of the crime can be excluded from determining your disability benefit amount.

Being Incarcerated

Since benefits are supposed to provide for your housing and food, you are not eligible to receive SSDI benefits when you are incarcerated for a period of 30 days or more since the penal institution is providing for these basic needs.

This rule applies if you were confined in a jail, prison, correctional facility or other penal institution. You can face this consequence if you were incarcerated for a felony or a misdemeanor.

You are not eligible for benefits for any month where you spent any days in jail, provided that you were in jail for 30 days or more. Your benefits will also be suspended after you have been incarcerated for 30 days. Your benefits are reinstated in the month after your release as long as you have not had your benefits suspended for 12 months or longer.

This rule applies if you were found not guilty due to mental disease or defect or if you were determined to be incompetent to stand trial.

Evading Arrest

You are also not eligible to receive benefits if you are doing any of the following:

  • Evading arrest for committing a crime
  • Avoiding prosecution
  • Have escaped from law enforcement custody
  • Have an outstanding warrant for flight to avoid prosecution or confinement, escape from custody or flight-escape

Violating Parole or Probation

You are still eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits if you are on probation or parole and are not otherwise ineligible. However, if you violate the terms of probation or parole, you become immediately ineligible for benefits for the time period when you are found to be in violation of the terms of your probation or parole.

Sustaining a Disability While Committing a Crime

One important exception to the rule that a criminal history does not impact your eligibility for disability benefits is if you sustain a disability or aggravate a pre-existing condition while you are committing a crime. If this situation applies, you cannot apply for Social Security for this particular condition. However, you can still apply based on other conditions.

There does not have to be a cause and effect relationship between the crime you committed and the disability so long as the two events occurred close in time. If the SSA determines that your disability occurred because of the commission of the crime, you will be permanently barred from applying for benefits based on that disability.

Becoming Disabled While in Prison

If you develop a disability while in prison or your situation is made worse during your incarceration, you can apply for disability benefits while incarcerated. The SSA will usually freeze your benefits, meaning that you will only start receiving them once you are released. When you are released, you must submit a new disability application. The SSA can consider your current medical condition, any improvements you experienced and how your condition prevents you from working.

Contact a Knowledgeable Lawyer for More Information

If you have a criminal record, it is important that you understand how this may impact your eligibility for Social Security disability benefits. A knowledgeable Phoenix Social Security Disability lawyer from our firm is prepared to advise you on getting an application approved or help you appeal a denied claim.

 Our consultations are completely free and you are under no obligation to hire us. Should we represent you, we do not charge any upfront fees unless we help you successfully obtain the benefits you need.

 We are available to discuss your claim. 1-800-503-2000.