Man in jail cell holding bars © iStock

Dear Dr. Don,
My brother-in-law was convicted of a felony and will spend 19 months in a Michigan prison. Will the government withhold his Social Security income because of this? His wife needs that money. Thanks.
— Sally Slammer

Dear Sally,
It sounds like your extended family has been traveling down a troubling road. Here’s hoping that their fortunes improve in the years ahead.

I’m sorry to tell you that the outlook isn’t good regarding your particular question. The 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.

Help for the family

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.

Free bird, no longer a jailbird

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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