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Does conviction affect social security disability benefits?

On Behalf of | Oct 26, 2023 | Social Security Disability

Social Security disability insurance benefits provide financial support to individuals who are unable to work due to a disability. This federal program offers assistance to people who have paid into the Social Security system and meet the eligibility criteria.

However, criminal history can influence the outcome of an SSDI application, regardless of how long the person previously worked or how severe the disability is.

Eligibility requirements

To qualify for SSDI, people must have disabling conditions that prevent them from engaging in what the law terms substantial gainful activity. The Social Security Administration defines SGA as earning more than a specific monthly limit. Additionally, applicants must have accumulated enough work credits through previous employment.

The impact of criminal convictions

Having a criminal record does not automatically disqualify the 40% of state prisoners with disabilities from receiving SSDI benefits upon release. However, disabilities that arise during the following two circumstances may not be eligible:

  • Disabilities that occur during imprisonment
  • Disabilities that arose due to criminal activities that led to the conviction

It is sometimes impossible to pinpoint the cause and time of onset of many disabilities. Thus, it may be difficult to link them to illegal activities.

Exceptions to the rule

Exceptions exist to the general rules governing ineligibility for SSDI. For example, felons may still be eligible for SSDI if their criminal history does not directly relate to their disabilities. In such cases, the SSA evaluates the disability based on medical evidence and work history, rather than on the conviction.

Completing a rehabilitation program and demonstrating an effort to reintegrate into society can strengthen any application for SSDI benefits, regardless of past behavior.