Social Security Benefits for X-Offenders:

    There has been a lot of confusion over the years regarding the aging prisoner population and Social Security. I’ve heard many different rumors and, even recently, seen a copy of one of the notorious “official” letters telling prisoners they’re eligible for “instant” social security funds automatically qualified for Small Business Agency loans of $25,000.00 and many other equally bogus claims.

    The purpose of this information is to supply you with factual, accurate information in a concise, yet simplified, format making it easy to understand.

    As the prison population ages, more inmates will be of an age to collect benefits, if they qualify, when they are released. Thanks to the ever-increasing sentences given by Texas courts, the number of retirement age releases will be increasing every year. Some inmates like those who are legally blind and/or physically handicapped were receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) prior to being incarcerated. For those inmates, special rules apply to help them get their payments started again. Prisoners who lost their vision or became disabled while incarcerated will be required to go through the entire (and sometimes rather lengthy) process to be approved. And then there’s the basic fact that deniability to draw Social Security Retirement benefits is NOT automatic. Certain parameters must be met by the individual applying, and if you’ve spent the majority of your life behind barbed wire you simply may not qualify.

    What this information will provide you with is the basics for your knowledge regarding:

    Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
    Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
    Veteran’s pensions and compensation
    Veteran’s Health Care
    and food stamps

    *One further quick note should be made concerning the bogus letter circulation around the various prisons and that is where it addresses public housing. The letter claims that as an ex-convict, one is considered a “disadvantaged” person and thus qualified for public housing. However, while and ex-con is certainly a disadvantaged person they will not be allowed to live in publicly funded housing, or even public assisted housing. In most all cases, they cannot even purchase a home through HUD.


    Social Security helps not only older people, but also people who become disabled, as well as the families of a person who becomes disabled or dies. It was never meant to replace the income of worker generations, but as a supplement to help them live comfortable. It replaces only about 40% of an average wage earner’s income, whereas financial experts agree that 70%-80% is actually needed to maintain a pre-retirement degree of comfort.

    The Social Security system works like this: when you work, you pay taxes into Social Security. That tax money is used to pay benefits to:

    1. People who have already retired
    2. People who are disabled
    3. Surviers of workers who have died and
    4. Dependtants of beneficiaries.

    The money you pay in taxes is not held in a personal account for you to use when you qualify to receive benefits. Your taxes are being used right now to pay benefits for people already eligible. And unused money goes to the Social Security Trust Funds-not a person account with your name on it.

    May people think of social Security as just a retirement program and although it is true that most of the people receiving benefits are getting retirement benefits, many others receive benefits because they are:

    A spouse or child of someone who gets Social Security
    A spouse or child of a worker who died
    A dependant parent of a worker who died
    Under certain circumstances,
    you may be eligible for Social Security at any age.

    As you work and pay taxes, you earn Social Security “credits. For example; in 2005 a worker would earn one (1) credit for each $920.00 in wage earnings, but is only allowed a maximum of four (4) credits per year. (The amount of wage earnings required to receive one credit goes up every year).

    Most people need forty (40) credits (10 Years of work) to qualify for benefits. Younger people need fewer credits to be eligible for disability benefits or for family members to be eligible for survivor benefits when the worker dies.

    If you are currently incarcerated and will reach retirement age before your release, you may be eligible for Social Security providing you have obtained the required credits. Usually, you can start the paperwork for this around ninety (90) days prior to your release date.



    You can apply to have your SSI check restarted even before the date of your release. This is called the “pre-release procedure.” First, ask prison staff whether there is a “Pre-Release Agreement” between the prison and the Social Security Administration. If so, ask staff to help you apply through the agreement. This will help you get a quicker decision and check after your release. If not, it can still be done but is somewhat more difficult. You can have friends or relatives take the information to Social Security on your behalf, but when making an appointment they should make sure as to what paperwork they have to bring with them. They will also need to show what your projected income will be; who you plan to live with after your release; the date of your release and whatever other information Social Security requires.

    All this will enable them to calculate your benefits. They can also, at that time, decide whether you are eligible for food stamps. Finally, on the day you are released go to the Social Security office with identification and a document from the prison stating that you have been released and an address where you want the checks to be mailed.

    NOTE: There are NO “emergency” or “instant” checks issued!


    You remain on the rolls for SSDI during your period of incarceration, no matter how long that may be, although the checks do stop. Therefore, you need to request reinstatement of your cash benefit. Prior to your release date you can request to have you SSDI checks restarted.

    There is no pre-release procedure for SSDI recipients as there is for SSI, but if there is a pre-release procedure for SSDI recipients as there is for SSI, but there is a pre-release agreement for SSI, it can also be used for SSDI. Otherwise, you can, generally, follow the same procedure as SSI by having a friends or relative do the initial legwork for you.


    If you were disabled while in prison, you will be required to go through the Social Security screening process to obtain your decision. You will have to meet certain criteria to qualify. Special rules apply for visually impaired/blind people.

    In general, the information Social Security will need to make a determination is:

    Your Social Security number
    Your birth or baptismal certificate
    Names, addresses and phone number of the doctors, caseworkers, hospitals, and clinics that took care of you and dates of your visits
    Names and dosages of all the medicines you take
    Medical records form you doctors, therapist, hospitals, clinics and case workers that you already have n you possession
    Laboratory and test results
    a summary of where you worded and the kind of work you did
    A copy of you last W-2 form or federal tax return.

    In addition to the basic application for benefits, there are other forms needed to collect information about your medical condition and how it affects your ability to work and forms to give permission for Social Security to obtain information from doctors, hospitals, etc…

    It is important to understand that if you disagree with the initial decision of a Social Security determination you have the right to appeal and you case will be reviewed by an Administrative Law Judge. There are also many attorneys who handle Social Security determination cases and they work on a contingency basis for a fee percentage set by the government. If the don’t get you a favorable decision then they do not get paid. Therefore, and due to part to the complicated nature of different disabilities, if your initial application is denied, seek a professional Social Security attorney. It would be to your best interest.


    Once you have obtained a favorable decision for receiving any type of Social Security benefits, ask about Supplemental Security Income. Whether you are receiving retirement; Blind; or Disability benefits, you may qualify for additional funds.

    You local Social Security office will help you process this application. Then are certain requirements to be met, so not everyone is eligible, but if you are qualified for SSDI, you chances are much better. You must ask for it-Social Security won’t volunteer the information.


    Medicare is a federal-funded health care program. You would be eligible for Medicare coverage only if you are age 65 or over, of if you have been eligible for SSDI disability benefits for the previous two years. It is not free, but the amount paid each month is deducted from your check. Ask about Medicare during you interview and remember that with rising medical cost, a short hospital stay could wipe out whatever savings you may have accumulated. It is well worth it to obtain the program.


    Medicaid is a state-funded medical program and eligibility requirements very, but as a general rule, if you are eligible for SSI or SSDI, then you will qualify. Ask staff for forms and information, or have them mailed to you from local social services office. Your application can be reviewed and approved before your release. When you are released you have to go to the local social Services office to finish the application and receive your Medical Card.



    The cash benefits will continue during your incarceration, but will be substantial lowered. You will only receive 10% of your normal benefit, however, you should note that the VA can take all or part of the amount taken (i.e.: the difference between what you were receiving and what you get during your incarceration) and provide it to your spouse, children and dependent parents, depending on their need. You should also note that if your benefits are a pension (ie: a non-service related disability) your benefits, unfortunately, will be totally suspended on the 61st day of your incarceration following a felony conviction.


    You can begin the application process while still incarcerated by contacting you local Veteran’s Administration office and requesting VA form 21-526. If you have a friend with internet access, the form is also available at;
    and can be printed out for you.


    You will be eligible to get your VA compensation or pension benefits on the day you are released. (NOTE: the VA may decide to schedule you for a medical examination to determine if your disability has improved). Either visit or call your local VA office for help in restarting these benefits. If you are unsure where your local office is, call 1-800-827-1000 to contact your regional office that will handle your benefits. Again, you will need a document showing that you’ve been released. It is best to start this process prior to your release, so ask staff to notify the BA of your release. Keep in mind that benefits restart as soon as the VA is aware of you changed status and approves your benefits-but the checks still have to be sent to you, and that may take a little time.


    To gt those benefits, you have to file and initial application. You may request the proper form from your local VA office, Ask for VA Form 10-10EZ. If you don’t know the address of your local office, and have somebody outside with a telephone, they can call 1-877-222-8387 and have the form sent to you.


    Veterans are immediately eligible for AV Health care upon their release, but should contact the local VA Health Care Facility they want to use and get their name back into the computer.


    Food stamps are given to households, but that can also mean only one person. They are eligibility requirements that vary, depending upon the size of the household. If you are applying for SSI or SSDI, you can usually apply for Food Stamps at the same time, if eligible for both. If you do not have SSI or SSDI, you can apply through your local social services office. Note: If convicted of a drug felony, you may not be eligible for food stamps! States can end your benefits; however they may restore your eligibility upon successful completion of a drug and alcohol program. You will have to ask-they will not volunteer the information.

    When dealing with any governmental agency, one soon discovers that nothing is simple. This brochure is meant to attempt a simply understanding of a complex procedure.

    One of the very first things you should do is to write and request a copy of your earning record. At the same time, you can request one or more of the following publications. The SSA will send you the publication, plus and application for your coppy of you Earning Record. It will be sent to a different address after you complete it, but is a “self-mailer” type application. To request the application and/or publications write to:

    Social Security Administration
    6401 Security Blvd.
    Baltimore, MD 21235-6401

    These publications may be of additional help.

    Understanding The Benefits
    (SSA Publication No. 05-10024)
    How Work Affects Your Benefits
    (SSA Publication No. 05-10069)
    Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
    (Publication No. 05-11000) The Appeals Process
    (Publication No. 05-10041)
    Your Right to Representation
    (Publication No. 05-10029)
    Disability Benefits
    (SSA Publication NO. 05-10029)
    If You Are Blind or Have Low Vision-How We Can Help
    (Publication No. 05-10152)
    What You Need To Know When You Get Disability Benefits
    (Publication No. 05-10153)
    How Workman’s Compensation and Other Disability Payments May Affect Your Benefits
    (Publication No. 05-10018)
    Working While Disabled-How We Can Help
    (Publication No. 05-10095)
    Your Payments While You Are Out side The United States
    (Publication No. 05-10137)

    Red Book, A Summary Guide to Employment Support For Individuals With Disabilities Under The Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income Programs (Publication No. 64-030).

Copyright © 2006-2014 TPNS