How to Help an Inmate Obtain Federal Disability Benefits

How to Help an Inmate Obtain Federal Disability Benefits

Are you looking for a way to help someone with a disability who is incarcerated receive the benefits they need? Federal Disability Benefits provide some of the most important resources available to inmates. Inmates can use them to offset medical costs, pay for housing, and even access education or job-training programs. But applying for such benefits can be difficult and time-consuming when you don’t know how or where to start. In this blog post, we’ll outline the steps necessary for an inmate to apply for federal disability benefits – so that you can feel confident in helping them take advantage of the rights afforded by their status as persons with disabilities. 

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income Benefits 

There are two Federal disability benefits available to help those who require assistance because of physical or mental impairments. 

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) 

This program is a vital resource for those who are over 65, blind, or disabled and face financial hardship. The SSI program provides monthly income that can make all the difference in helping these individuals live fulfilling lives despite their disabilities or age. The best part is that this program does not discriminate – No work history is required. Only the disabled person receives SSI benefits; no one else does. 

The Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) 

SSDI is an excellent option for those with disabilities who have previously worked and paid into Social Security. The medical requirements and application process are similar to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The main difference here is that eligibility for SSDI is based on prior work records under Social Security. The amount you receive differs case-by-case and usually depends upon your average past earnings, length of time in the workforce, and other factors. 

What Does SSA Consider as A “Disability”? 

Social Security has clear criteria to determine who is eligible for federal benefits. To be eligible, applicants must meet specific criteria such as; 

  • Inability to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death. 
  • A long history of being unable to work due to illness, not being able to adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s). 
  • Those who meet these requirements can receive help for their children under 18 or severely disabled before the age of 22 
  • The wife of an eligible person can receive benefits if she is 62 or older. She can also qualify if she cares for a beneficiary’s child under 16 or severely disabled before age 22. 

Incarceration and SSI/SSDI 

Inmates IN U.S. jails or prisons have their Federal Disability Benefits suspended after serving an entire month in jail or prison. This suspension is due to being housed in a public institution rather than because of any convictions. After 12 consecutive months, the disability benefits are then terminated. 

If a person is imprisoned for less than 12 months, the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers it a “suspension” of benefits rather than a termination. People who have been released from jail are entitled to receive benefits again. 

However, there are two occasions when applying for SSI/SSD during your sentence could still make sense. 

  1. If the prison doctor has diagnosed you with a disability and your release date is fast approaching, then getting the ball rolling on the SSD application process is recommended; this can take some time to be approved, so starting the process early is critical. 
  2. If you can also demonstrate that dependants qualify for additional benefits, it’s possible to apply while still in jail or prison. 

Unfortunately, application processes can be complex and time-consuming, making it difficult for inmates to complete them themselves. Helping inmates obtain federal disability benefits quickly following release is essential to ensure they can stay on the path to successful reentry into normal life outside. Qualified discharge planners or family and friends can lend assistance to inmates to complete their applications in time to receive their much-needed help. 

Procedure to Help an Inmate Obtain Federal Disability Benefits 

Applying for Federal Disability Benefits can be intimidating, especially for inmates. Working with a qualified professional can make the journey smoother and more successful. You can take these simple steps to help make obtaining Federal Disability Benefits easier for someone who has been imprisoned. 

Step 1: Meet with the inmate and ensure they have the necessary information to help them fill out the initial application forms.  

Step 2: Have the inmate fill out the Appointment of Representative Form, which is signed to officially state that you are assisting the claimant with legal representation. 

Step 3: Help the inmate fill out the disability report. It gives the claimant their first chance to explain their disability in detail, so fill it out with caution. Always include the most strenuous jobs they have done. 

Step 4: Send Release Form SSA-827 to doctors or hospitals. The Form gives authorization to doctors to disclose medical evidence required to determine whether a claimant is disabled. 

Step 5: Gather all inmate’s medical records. You must send a report request letter and a 1002 form to the inmate’s doctor. The Form helps you be accurate and gives complete information about the claimant’s medical condition. 

Step 6: Distribute a third-party questionnaire to someone who knows the claimant and is familiar with their disability and how it affects them daily. If no friends or family members are accessible or willing to participate in this survey, the Community Outreach Questionnaire is available. 

Step 7: After taking in as much medical information as possible, one must create a compelling letter to their client’s analyst explaining why the Disability fulfills all permanent Disability standards. 

Step 8: Once these forms are received and reviewed by the local Social Security office, The file is forwarded to the Disability and Adult Programs Division (DAPD) for a review of disability eligibility. At the DAPD, a disability analyst will be assigned to your file. They will gather and evaluate all of your records and supporting documents. 

Step 9: Once the disability evaluation is complete and sent back to the District Office, it’s time to decide what steps to take next. If your client has been found disabled, you will be invited to a final meeting at the District Office. You should receive a notice in the mail outlining when the meeting is and what documents you need to bring. 

If a client’s claim is denied at reconsideration, they will receive a notice through the mail outlining an appeal process. It is your role to help them understand the next steps in obtaining federal disability benefits. You should continue to assist with this entire procedure as much as possible, considering it a crucial part of helping inmates pursue their federal disability benefits. 

Challenges Inmates Face in Obtaining Federal Disability Benefits 

Inmates face unique and complex challenges when applying for and receiving federal disability benefits. The likelihood of qualifying individuals receiving their necessary benefits shortly after release is increasing due to planning efforts that are now occurring while incarcerated. However, various problems still require assistance from qualified discharge planners. Some of them include but are not limited to the following: 

  • Impaired health 
  • Correctional facility-imposed limitations on communication with external parties 
  •  Limited self-advocacy skills 
  • Difficulty understanding the complexities of the application process 
  • Inability to attend your hearing for SSI/SSD benefits. 
  • Staff resistance to applicant impairments 
  • Delays in the disability determination process can prevent applicants from meeting crucial deadlines for prerelease support. 
  • Inability to track down released inmates, 

Reasons for Denial of Application 

Applying for federal disability benefits is not simple: When submitting the inmate’s application, you must be aware that specific issues can lead to an unfavorable determination. Reasons for denial of federal disability benefits are varied and can include 

  • Errors in documentation 
  • Not meeting specific medical criteria  
  • Having insufficient work history to meet the Social Security Administration (SSA) requirements 
  • If the inmate has income from other sources such as employment or investments. 
  • Fraud and misrepresentation can result in immediate disqualification from the program, regardless of any other factor. 
  • Not being able to prove the severity of a disability.   
  • Lack of medical records or other documentation related to one’s Disability. 
  • If the primary or sole diagnosis is drug or alcohol abuse. 
  • An individual acquiring their disabling impairment due to having committed a felony or high misdemeanor. 

Follow-up After Release 

Field agents play a vital role in helping inmates obtain Federal Disability Benefits. They monitor applicants who have received medical approval to ensure they contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) and local social service agencies responsible for Medicaid. 

Agents also assist those with pending Claims to ensure that DDD and SSA staff have all the necessary information to process an application fully. Finally, agents help with Appeals if prerelease claims have been denied, offering support and guidance throughout the process. Field agents assist inmates in obtaining their benefits upon release from facility parole offices. 


Do You Have to be Permanently Disabled to Get Social Security Disability Benefits? 

No! You don’t have to be permanently disabled to get Social Security disability benefits. Individuals must have been handicapped for at least a year or be likely to be disabled for at least a year, or they must have a condition that is predicted to end in death within a year to qualify for SSDI benefits. If you fulfill these conditions, you may be eligible for Social Security disability insurance regardless of the severity and length of your impairment. 

How Does Social Security Determine if an Inmate is Disabled? 

Social Security determines if an inmate is disabled by considering medical records, age, education, and work experience. In particular, they need to decide if they can do the work they’ve done in the past. If not, the decision-makers will determine if they can adjust to a different role given your existing health issues and other factors such as age, education, and experience. 

How does SSA Verify Incarceration Status? 

SSA Verifies Incarceration Status through monthly data from most State and local corrections departments. This data consists of the inmate’s name, social security number, date of birth, gender, conviction, confinement date, release date, and status. SSA then uses this information to update records. It is also shared with Federal agencies that pay benefits and welfare agencies such as those administering Food Stamps, Medicaid and Medicare. The former pays out $400 for information received within 30 days to incentivize this data sharing between SSA and corrections departments. 

Who Decides if an Inmate is Disabled? 

The disability examiner assigned to the case decides if an inmate is disabled or not. When a Social Security Disability claim is filed, it is sent to the Disability Determination section of its respective state’s Social Security agency. A disability examiner is assigned to the case. They work with a doctor to make the initial determination of eligibility. 

 If the claim is denied and later reconsidered, it passes through much of the same process but is reassigned to another examiner. If still denied, claimants may request a hearing in which an independent Administrative Law Judge makes their own decision. 

What Happens to an Inmate’s Medicare or Medicaid Coverage When in Jail? 

While in jail, the inmate’s eligibility for Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) remains unaffected. However, to maintain Part B (Medical Insurance) coverage, individuals must pay the monthly payments or the coverage will be terminated. If the coverage stops due to nonpayment of the premium while serving time, sign up during the General Enrollment Period, which runs from January to March. Part B coverage will begin in July of that year.  

However, keep in mind that any unpaid past-due payments will be your responsibility, and there’s a risk that a late enrollment penalty will apply if you have Part B.