SSI Benefits Eligibility: Underpayments to Prisoners and Other Check Related Prisoner Issues, Social Security Administration

Statutes, Regulations, and Agency Guidelines

This SSA manual excerpt discusses the appropriate methods of providing SSI underpayments to prisoners, alternative methods for paying underpayments while the prisoner is incarcerated, and the procedures for redeeming SSI benefit checks that are received at correctional institutions. Generally, prisoners are not eligible for SSI during their incarceration (for more information see SSAs fact sheet What Prisoners Should Know About Social Security at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10133.pdf). SSA must pay underpayments to prisoners incurred during their period of eligible. As a matter of policy, SSA exhausts every alternate method of payment before issuing a paper check to an incarcerated person at an institution because such payments cause severe public relations problems. Instead, SSA will request that the prisoner have the checked issued to a bank account or obtain a temporary mailing address for the prisoner other than the institution. The prisoner has to agree to these alternatives -- if not, SSA must issue the underpayment to the recipient at the correctional institution. This sheet also addresses the steps an institution should take if an inmate is receiving benefits. While the institution should contact the SSA, it should not intercept the check.