Social Security Disability With a Criminal or Felony Record

I have seen other attorneys post that a criminal background will not keep a claimant from receiving disability benefits as long as the claimant does not have an outstanding felony warrant.

This is mostly correct. However, there is one additional “felony impairment” rule: a claimant cannot receive Title II Disability Insurance benefits if the claimant’s impairment arose in connection with the commission of a felony. Under the Title II Regulations, 20 C.F.R. 404.1506, Subsection (a), limitations resulting from the commission of a felony must be excluded from consideration of disability under the Act:

“(a) Permanent exclusion of felony-related impairment. In determining whether you are under a disability, we will not consider any physical or mental impairment, or any increase in severity (aggravation) of a preexisting impairment, which arises in connection with your commission of a felony after October 19, 1980, if you are subsequently convicted of this crime. Your subsequent conviction will invalidate any prior determination establishing disability if that determination was based upon any impairment, or aggravation, which we must exclude under this rule.”

Note: This limitation does not apply to claims for Title XVI Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits.

Example: A claimant was involved in an automobile accident in 2000. The claimant suffered severe injuries, including three herniated disks in his back. However, the claimant was the driver and was arrested for a DUI, or Driving Under the Influence. The claimant served 10 years in prison for this felony. Upon release, the claimant applies for Title II disability insurance benefits and Title XVI SSI disability benefits based upon the back injuries suffered in the 2000 accident. Assuming there are no other severe impairments, the Social Security Administration must deny the Title II claim because the injuries are related to the felony. As set forth in the regulation, this is a lifetime ban on Title II benefits for injuries relating to the accident. The claimant may still pursue the SSI disability benefits, but the claimant must also meet the non-medical requirements for such benefits.

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