Benefits for Spouses of Incarcerated Individuals – What You Need To Know
Published June 2, 2023
In a strict sense, there are no benefits specific to spouses of incarcerated individuals. In other words, you can’t claim benefits just because your spouse is in prison.
However, if the incarceration greatly affected your finances, you may be able to claim certain benefits. The government offers several types of needs-based benefits for struggling individuals and families. Some private organizations also have financial assistance programs for families affected by incarceration.
So if you’re struggling to make ends meet because of your spouse’s incarceration, may this guide help you get the help you need.
The Struggle of Having a Spouse in Prison
Having a spouse in prison can have a major financial impact on your life.
Depending on the length of incarceration, this might mean having to cover all the household expenses normally shared between two people on your own.
In addition, there may be other costs associated with having a partner in prison, such as travel expenses to visit them or payments that need to be made in order for them to access certain amenities or services.
Plus, if you have kids, you’ll also have to deal with school fees and other costs associated with raising children.
That’s why it’s important to plan ahead as much as possible to ensure that you’re in the best financial position while your partner is incarcerated. This may involve cutting back on unnecessary expenses, exploring available benefits and support services, and having conversations with other family members who may be able to offer financial assistance.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that even though the situation can be difficult, you don’t need to go through it alone. There are plenty of people out there willing to offer support, advice, and assistance where needed.
What Benefits Can You Possibly Get?
Here are some of the needs-based benefits that you may qualify for:
1. Social Security Benefits
When someone goes to prison for more than a month, all their social security benefits will stop. This can be temporary or permanent depending on their prison sentence and the type of benefits they’re receiving.
However, if you’ve been receiving social security benefits on your spouse’s account before they went to prison, you may continue receiving them.
Now, if your spouse isn’t receiving any form of social security benefit before they got carted off to prison, you won’t be able to claim benefits under their account.
You may, however, apply for social security benefits on your own account – provided that you meet the SSA’s requirements.
For instance, if you have enough work credits and can prove that you have a disability, you may qualify for SSDI. Or if your income and resources fall below a certain threshold, you may be able to claim SSI.
You can contact your local SSA office to find out if there are any benefits you may qualify for.
2. Veterans Cash Benefits
If your spouse was receiving VA cash benefits, they will be reduced or completely terminated once they’re:
- convicted of a felony and;
- imprisoned for more than 60 days
However, any benefit not paid to the veteran in prison can be apportioned to their spouse, children, or dependent parents.
For instance, if your spouse was receiving a VA pension, the payments will completely stop upon their 61st day in prison. The full amount can then be apportioned to you and your children.
Apportionments, however, are contingent upon individual needs. Meaning, you will need to prove to the VA that you have low income and limited resources to qualify for apportionment.
According to the VA, they determine your individual needs by considering different factors like:
- your income and living expenses
- the amount of benefit to be apportioned
- the income and living expenses of other dependents (if any)
Apportionments aren’t automatically granted, though. You must file a claim for it.
3. Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
As the name suggests, TANF is meant to assist families when a parent can no longer provide their basic needs. It’s administered on a state level so the policies and amount tend to vary across the country.
But in general, you’ll qualify for TANF if you are:
- a US citizen, US national, or legally qualified alien
- a resident of the state in which you apply
- unemployed or underemployed and have very low income
Some states also require that you are:
- pregnant or taking care of a child below 18 years old
- under the age of 18 and the head of your household
To determine your state’s eligibility requirements, you can contact your state’s TANF office.
4. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
More commonly known as “food stamps”, SNAP is granted to low-income individuals and families. They can use this to buy food in authorized retail food stores.
SNAP eligibility requirements can vary per state. But in general, your eligibility will depend on:
- your gross income
- your total expenses
- your assets
Your gross and net income must be below the poverty line and your assets below a certain threshold to qualify for SNAP.
Wrapping It Up
Living with an incarcerated spouse can be incredibly difficult, both emotionally and financially.
For those struggling with financial hardship due to having a partner in prison, there are options available that can help you navigate through potentially difficult times. Social Security, VA benefits, SNAP, and TANF are all programs designed to provide practical assistance for spouses of incarcerated individuals.
While the situation may daunting and even overwhelming at first, by researching your options and understanding the process, you can create a plan to connect with resources that will prove helpful during this difficult time.
Most importantly, never feel ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help in this journey; just remember that you are not alone.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a professional writer for the GlobalTel blog. She works hard to ensure her work contains accurate facts by cross checking reputable sources and doesn’t settle for less. Her passion for telling stories about true crime and criminal justice has allowed her to create hundreds of articles that have benefited millions of people.