As long as they are not incarcerated, people who have been convicted of a criminal offense have the same rights as other Americans to collect benefits from the Supplemental Security Income program. If an ex-offender meets the program's eligibility requirements, then that person is entitled to SSI benefits.
No Benefits While Incarcerated
According to the Social Security Administration, which oversees the SSI program, no one can collect Supplemental Security Income benefits while in a prison, jail or other institution for a criminal conviction. In fact, no one who is behind bars even needs SSI, anyway. The program is intended to help people pay for the basic necessities of life -- namely food, clothing and shelter. Someone who is in prison is already having those basic needs met by the state. However, incarcerated offenders can apply to receive SSI benefits once they are released. If someone convicted of a crime is not sentenced to confinement, but instead receives a fine or probation, that person's ability to collect SSI isn't impaired at all.
Meeting the Requirements
To qualify for SSI, ex-offenders must meet the same standards as other applicants. They must be disabled, blind or at least 65 years old, with little or no income or resources, the Social Security Administration says. The SSA website provides a detailed explanation of the eligibility criteria. If an offender was receiving SSI benefits before going to prison, those payments can resume after release. However, offenders who were incarcerated for more than a year must submit a new application for benefits. Ex-convicts must provide their official release papers when applying for benefits.