Felony Convictions and Warrants Impact Social Security Benefits

criminal with hands in handcuffs

Not all felony convictions and warrants will keep an individual from collecting Social Security Disability and SSI.

Specifically, an individual will not be eligible for these benefits if the physical or mental disability was created or aggravated (but only to the extent of the aggravation) while committing a felony or while imprisoned for a felony conviction after October 19, 1980.[i] A felony conviction is required; an official act by law enforcement or even a grand jury indictment that does not arise to a conviction will not automatically delay eligibility or payment of benefits. The conviction rule will even apply to suspend benefits if the individual appeals the conviction to a higher court, unless and until the conviction no longer stands.

Further, benefits will not be paid to an individual while imprisoned for a felony or misdemeanor unless participating in an approved vocational rehabilitation program. After 30 days of incarceration, benefits are suspended and will only be re-instated once released. However, if the incarceration is longer, resulting in a suspension lasting 12 or more months, a new disability application will need to be filed with Social Security. Similarly, an individual who violates the terms of their probation or parole will not be entitled to benefits during that month(s). If the case is pending trial or appeal, SSA’s role is to make a disability determination then set a diary to check if there is a conviction. Ultimately, if a conviction stands, the case will then be returned to Disability Determination Services, the Administrative Law Judge, or the Appeals Council, depending on the case, to review for possible reopening and reversal.

Moreover, outstanding warrants may also disqualify an individual for benefits. On September 24, 2009, the US District Court for the Northern District of California decided the case of Martinez v. Astrue, approving a nationwide class action settlement agreement.[ii] The Martinez case limited the nature of warrants that would otherwise disqualify an individual from collecting benefits.[iii] As a result, effective April 1, 2009, SSA can only suspend or deny benefits based on outstanding felony arrest warrants for: escape from custody; flight to avoid prosecution or confinement; and flight-escape.[iv] If you or someone you know had benefits stopped or suspended due to a warrant issued before April 1, 2009, it’s important to contact an experienced attorney immediately. We can help recover benefits that were wrongfully stopped or suspended, even if it resulted in an overpayment. Call us today at (800) 949-2900.

[i] Note: this law applies to claims for Social Security Disability, Childhood Disability Benefits, and Disabled Widows, Widowers, and Survivors Benefits.  See SSR 83-21: Title II: Persons Convicted of a Felony.

[ii] See GN 02613.860 Martinez Court Case Settlement. [iii]The benefits covered under the Martinez decision include Social Security Retirement Survivors and Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income, and Special Veterans Benefits.

[iv] Id. For a list of warrant offenses that are not covered under the Martinez settlement retroactive relief process, see GN 02613.885C.3.b.

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Disability Attorneys of Michigan
30500 Van Dyke Ave, Ste. 400
Warren, Michigan 48093
Phone: (800) 949-2900

I will never forget you and the hard work you did to secure my Social Security Disability benefits. Thank you!

- Christine C.