WHAT ARE SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS?
Social Security is a United States federal program of social insurance and benefits developed in 1935.
The Social Security program’s benefits include retirement income, disability income, Medicare and Medicaid, and death and survivorship benefits.
AM I ELIGIBLE FOR BENEFITS IF I HAVE BEEN INCARCERATED?
Yes. Even if you have been incarcerated you may be eligible for Social Security retirement, survivors, or disability benefits if you have worked or paid into Social Security enough years.
Or you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income benefits if you are 65 or older, or are blind, or have a disability and have little or no income and resources.
People need funds to cover living expenses when they are released from prison. To help make a successful transition back into the community, you should apply for benefits you may be eligible for as soon as possible.
I WAS RECEIVING SOCIAL SECURITY OR SSI BENEFITS BEFORE I WAS INCARCERATED. DO I STILL HAVE THEM NOW?
If you were receiving Social Security or SSI before you were incarcerated, those benefits were suspended when you were confined to prison or jail.
- If you were receiving Social Security benefits, the benefits remained suspended until you are released
- If you were receiving SSI benefits, those benefits are terminated if you were incarcerated for a year or more.
HOW SOON CAN BENEFITS BE STARTED AFTER MY RELEASE?
The amount of time it takes to start benefits will depend on your particular situation.
- If Social Security benefits were only suspended, Social Security can usually restart them without much delay.
- If benefits were terminated, benefits can take a few months to start again.
- If you were n ot previously entitled or eligible for benefits a new application will be required.
HOW DO I APPLY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS?
You can apply for Social Security or SSI benefits in several ways:
- Online – Use the Social Security Retirement/Medicare Benefit Application to apply for retirement, spouse’s, ex-spouse’s or Medicare benefits.
- By phone – Call us at 1-800-772-1213. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can call us at TTY 1-800-325-0778.
- In person – Visit your local Social Security office. (Call first to make an appointment.)
- You must be at least 61 years and 9 months old to apply for retirement benefits.
- If you are already age 62, you may be able to start your benefits in the month you apply.
- You should apply for benefits no more than four months before the date you want your benefits to start.
- Benefits are paid the month after they are due. (If your benefits start in April, you will receive your first benefit payment in May.)
- If you are not getting Social Security and you are not ready to retire, you should still use our online retirement benefit application to sign up for just Medicare three months before your 65th birthday.
WHAT DOCUMENTS DO I NEED TO APPLY FOR BENEFITS?
The Social Security office will need to see certain documents in order to pay benefits and to decide how much your benefits should be.
The documents you’ll need will depend on the circumstances of your claim, but generally, you will be asked for:
- your Social Security card (or a record of your number);
- your original birth certificate or other proof of birth
- proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the U.S.(more info);
- a copy of your U.S. military service paper(s) (e.g., DD-214 – Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty) if you had military service before 1968; and
- a copy of your W-2 form(s) and/or self-employment tax return for last year.
To learn more about DISABILITY BENEFITS, please see that section.