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Can You Collect Social Security in Prison?

Social Security Card With Cash in Hands

Dear Dr. Don,
My brother-in-law has just been convicted of a felony and will spend the next 19 months in a Michigan prison. Will the government withhold his Social Security income because of this? His wife needs that money. Thanks.
-- Rose Relation

Dear Rose,
Your brother-in-law's Social Security benefits will be suspended while he's in prison. That's required under a federal law called the No Social Security Benefits for Prisoners Act of 2009.

The law cuts off payments for people who have been convicted and confined in a correctional facility for more than 30 consecutive days.

If his spouse or children qualify for Social Security benefits, however, they'll continue to receive them while he is confined -- as long as they remain eligible.

Once he's out, he can start receiving benefits again. He will need to contact Social Security and provide a copy of his release documents before they can reinstate benefits. The Social Security Administration's publication "What Prisoners Need to Know" can provide additional information.

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