Your benefits would not be denied if you were incarcerated in the past unless you committed a major crime and resulted in jail for more than 30 days. This means that your benefits would be stopped automatically on the 31st day of your being in jail, no matter how minor a crime you committed.

However, there is another rule under the 'felony impairment' rule by the SSA under social security disability laws.

Disability laws for felons

Generally, any crime conviction will not have any affect on Social Security Disability Insurance, SSDI or Supplemental Security Income, SSI unless you did any of the following:

  • Your disability or impairment arose (or got worse during the time in jail) in the wake of felony commission;
  • Your disability arose or got worse during your time in prison or jail from the 31st day of your incarceration;
  • You killed a spouse, child or parent to get the status of a widow, widower, orphan to acquire social security benefits on survivor benefits – or dependent benefits if you killed a child with social security card;

Even when you may be denied social security and SSI due to these reasons, it is still worthwhile to apply, because, even when you won't be granted social security, you may be given compassionate allowance or previous disability payments.

The previous disability payments on your disability records would be given in a case where, if, your disability arose before the conviction of the crime but got worse after the commission of your felony. In this case, the disability payments before you got in jail due to conviction, would be 'freezed' until you reach your retirement age and apply for full benefits or would be given as a lump sum in disability benefits.

Escaped felons

Felons who were convicted in jail or prison for crimes, and escaped through any of the following, will loose their social security benefits forever.

  • Escape to avoid persecution or lifetime confinement;
  • Escape from custody;
  • Flight escape;


If you were convicted of a crime and are imprisoned in jail for a long period of time (more than 30 days in jail or prison), you would be denied benefits (since the state already pays for your food, shelter and medical needs in jail). If you are already on social security benefits, then your benefits will be cancelled on the 31st day of your incarceration. However, if you choose to enroll in a rehabilitation program, you may be able to continue receiving your benefits provided that you were approved for the benefits before you got incarcerated.

Parole or probation

You will be able to keep your benefits during a parole or probationary period as long as you remain compliant with the terms and conditions of the parole. Your benefits may be denied if you fail to do so.

If you were convicted of a crime in the past and are unsure of whether to apply for benefits or how to file for benefits correctly, you may contact a disability attorney for legal help.