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CLS Shares Information on SSI and Reentry

What is SSI?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is monthly payments to people who have low income and few resources, and who are disabled and unable to work, blind, or age 65 or older.

I was receiving SSI before I was incarcerated. How do I get back on?

If you have been incarcerated for less than one year, you do not have to re-prove your medical disability. Call Social Security or your local Social Security Office to tell SSA that you have been released and need to get back onto benefits. Be ready with your Social Security number and information about your living situation, current financial status (income and any resources you own) and prison discharge information.

If you have been incarcerated for more than a year, you may have to reapply and prove that you are disabled based on your medical records and other factors.

How do I apply for SSI benefits?

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, local Social Security offices are currently closed. You can apply by calling (800) 772-1213 or calling your local SSA field office (see numbers below) or, for SSD cases, online. Parents and legal guardians may apply for their children with disabilities.

The Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP) SOAR Project assists men, women, and youth who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness in applying for SSI. HAP can be reached at: (800) 837-2672. HAP also has a SOAR Justice Project to provide specialized support for people who are returning home from incarceration or are otherwise involved in the criminal-justice system.

What paperwork do I need to apply?

Social Security will look at records of your medical treatment from the past year, plus older records if they are relevant. It is very important to be in treatment for all of your conditions.

Social Security gives special weight to records from doctors, psychologists, and other medical providers. It will look at records from these providers to see if you have a disability. Once it decides if you have a disability, it will consider records from other people, like therapists, teachers, home health aides, or family members.

How long does it take to qualify for SSI benefits?

If you are released within twelve months of incarceration, you are eligible to start receiving benefits right away. If you need to reapply, it can take several months to get onto benefits, or longer if you are denied and appeal. If you are denied and need help with an appeal, Community Legal Services may be able to help. Appeal online right away (if possible) or call your local Field Office and then call Community Legal Services at (215) 981-3700 for a telephone intake.

Can I still receive SSI if I work?

To qualify for SSI, you must show that you are not able to engage in Substantial Gainful Activity, which means that you are not able to earn $1260 a month (in 2020).

Once you start receiving SSI, you can work, but your SSI payments will be reduced based on your earnings. There are some discounts and allowances for certain types of work. Be sure to report the money you earn each month by calling (800) 772-1213.

For a pdf version, click here.

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