The actual process for applying for Social Security Disability benefits while in jail or prison is essentially the same as applying any other time. However, due to your incarceration, you will be unable to attend your hearing, which could present a problem. You should be aware, however, that you will be ineligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits while you are still incarcerated.
There are two situations under which it may make sense to apply for Social Security Disability benefits while you are in jail or prison. The first is if you are disabled and your release date is approaching. In this case, it is in your best interest to get the ball rolling on the Social Security Disability process, as it can take several months before your claim is approved. The other case in which it makes sense to apply for Social Security Disability benefits while incarcerated is if you have dependants who would be eligible for auxiliary benefits based on your disability.
There are some difficulties to applying for Social Security Disability from jail. In the first place, you will need to obtain permission to meet with the Social Security Administration’s representatives. However, most of the necessary meetings can take place over the phone, and much of the application process can be completed online if you have access to the Internet. In some instances, representatives of the Social Security Administration have even held meetings in prison to accommodate someone during the Social Security Disability appeals process.
It is within your rights, and your best interests, to seek the advice and representation of a competent Social Security Disability lawyer. If your attorney does not handle Social Security Disability cases, ask for his or her recommendation. A qualified Social Security Disability representative can represent you in all the Social Security Administration proceedings, whether you are able to attend or not.
Another problem faced by prisoners seeking SSD benefits is that the doctors within the prison or jail system are not always helpful when it comes to filling out paperwork regarding your disabilities. Additionally, the opinions given by prison doctors often fail to carry the weight of a personal physician’s statements.
Still, if you believe you are disabled according to the SSA’s definition of disability, you should not allow jail time to stop you from applying for Social Security Disability benefits, especially if you have a family who could receive benefit payments. Your dependants continue to receive Social Security Disability benefits, even if you are unable to receive them due to being in jail.
If you were receiving Social Security Disability benefits before you went to jail, you will not need to re-apply for benefits unless you have spent (or are going to spend) a year or more in jail. For sentences of less than a year (in most cases), your Social Security Disability benefit payments will resume automatically when you are released from custody. If your sentence is longer than a year, you will need to reapply for Social Security Disability benefits when you get out of jail (or when your release time is drawing near).
You should be aware that some crimes may cause you to have more difficulty being approved for Social Security Disability benefits. While your crimes are not likely to cause your claim to be denied alone. Having committed certain felonies, such as selling or distributing drugs, while you were receiving Social Security Disability benefits can have a negative impact on the likelihood that your claim will be accepted. Because of this, it is especially important to have a qualified Social Security Disability attorney represent you.