26 Nov 23

Reinstating Federal Benefits After a Conviction

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Last Updated on: 5th December 2023, 02:11 pm


Losing Your Benefits After a Conviction? Here’s How to Get Them Back

Getting convicted of a crime can turn your life upside down. Aside from potential jail time, fines, and a criminal record, a conviction can also mean losing important federal benefits you and your family rely on, like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and housing assistance.

But just ’cause you made a mistake doesn’t mean you should be punished forever. If you’ve served your time and are ready to get back on your feet, you may be able to get your benefits reinstated. This article will walk you through how to go about doing that for some of the most common federal benefit programs.

Social Security

Losing your Social Security benefits after a conviction totally sucks. That monthly check can be a lifeline, especially if you’re disabled or elderly.

The good news? Social Security usually only cuts off benefits if you’re locked up. As soon as you’re released, your benefits can start up again.

First thing’s first – contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) as soon as you get out. Call their toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 or visit your local office. Explain your situation and ask what forms you need to fill out to restart benefits.

They’ll likely have you fill out a Request for Reinstatement form. Make sure you include all the details about your conviction and release. Send it in ASAP and keep calling to follow up so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

If your benefits were terminated while you were away, you may need to reapply entirely. The SSA will guide you through what hoops you gotta jump through. It may take a couple months to sort through all the bureaucratic mess, so be patient.

Some exceptions:

  • If you’re convicted of treason or terrorism, your benefits can be terminated permanently. No getting those back.
  • If you’re convicted of a criminal offense with a direct connection to your Social Security benefits, like defrauding the program, you could be disqualified from receiving future benefits.

Social Security Suspension Upon Imprisonment –

Medicare and Medicaid

Medicare and Medicaid benefits usually get cut off after a month of incarceration. As soon as you’re free, get in touch with your local Medicaid office to restart your benefits.

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Bring paperwork confirming your release date. You may need to reapply, which can take 45-90 days to process. In the meantime, ask about any temporary Medicaid options they offer, so you’re not going without coverage.

Reinstating Medicare also requires contacting the Social Security Administration. Once they confirm you’re no longer incarcerated, they can reopen your Medicare benefits.

If you were receiving Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage before, you’ll have a chance to enroll again during Medicare’s open enrollment period which runs from October 15 to December 7 each year. Mark your calendar so you don’t miss it!

Food Stamps (SNAP)

Going hungry after getting out of jail is way too common. That’s where food stamps, aka SNAP benefits, come in clutch.

SNAP benefits are usually discontinued after 30 days behind bars. As soon as you’re out, get down to your local SNAP office and fill out an application to restart benefits.

Bring any records you have about your conviction, incarceration, and release. Be ready to pass an income test and interview. If approved, your EBT card will be reloaded within 30 days.

Pro tip: see if your state has an early SNAP reinstatement program. These can get your food stamp benefits started within 5 days of your release! Super helpful while you’re waiting on your regular application.

Federal Housing Assistance

Losing your Section 8 voucher or public housing while locked up is tough news. But in most cases, your housing assistance can be fully reinstated after release!

Your first step is to head to your local Public Housing Agency (PHA) and explain you need to restart benefits after an incarceration. They’ll have you fill out forms, pass income tests, background checks, all the usual stuff.

This process can take several weeks or months, so be patient and stay on them! If you’re reapplying for Section 8, you may go back on the waiting list, but let the PHA know your situation ASAP.

The bottom line: don’t lose hope if you lost federal benefits after a conviction. With some time and persistence, there are paths to getting your benefits back. It may seem daunting, but taking it step by step will get you there.

Having benefits like food, housing, and healthcare again can help you get back on your feet after incarceration. You got this! And there are people ready to help who understand everyone deserves a second chance. Chin up and take it one day at a time.

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How Incarceration Affects Federal Benefits –

Benefit Suspension & Termination –

Medicaid Suspension vs. Termination –

Public Housing Eviction & Termination –