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Of gamers and shooters: Prisoners with SSA benefits lose them after 30 continuous days, must reapply upon release

A case from Connecticut reminds us why it's never a good idea to try to game the system. A short piece posted Oct. 26 at NorwichBulletin.com say, "A New London man faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine after pleading guilty Tuesday to charges he fraudulently received Social Security disability payments, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office." Forty-four year-old Mario Torres-Ortiz entered a guilty plea to a charge of making a materially false statement to an agency or department of the United States. Court records indicated the man began receiving Social Security Disability payments 1993. But in May 2009, "he submitted a form to the Social Security Administration stating he had not worked since 2000. Investigators later found he had worked from May 2007 through May 2009. During those months, Torres-Ortiz obtained $19,585 in disability benefits to which he was not entitled, authorities said."

Shooter hopes to retain benefits

In the department of bizarre, a Maryland man convicted of shooting a woman in her face has gone back to seeking a modification of his already lightened sentence because if he's in lockup too long, he'll lose his Social Security Disability benefits. To add another twist? The man's name is John Alvin Lucky. But he wasn't lucky in the ruling on his motion. According to an Oct. 25 article in The Herald Mail, District Judge Dana Moylan Wright, who handed out his original sentence in June, denied the motion saying, “You got as light a sentence as I could stomach.” According to the article, the case began in August 2009, when Hagerstown police responded to a report of gunfire at an apartment. There they found 18-year-old Stephanie Renee Dews, who had been shot in the face.

He 'fumbled with the pistol'

"Lucky told police he 'fumbled with the pistol' and it went off, the [probable cause]  statement said. However, [Assistant State’s Attorney Leon] Debes said that Dews later told investigators that Lucky was loading and unloading the semiautomatic pistol, pointing it at her and pulling the trigger. "Although the shooting was not intentional, Debes said Lucky 'wanted to scare Ms. Dews.' "

Suspended sentence

In February, Lucky pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment, "but withdrew the plea the same day, re-entering a guilty plea to the same charge in April, according to court records." Released on an appeal bond after his sentencing hearing in June, Lucky had another change of mind, withdrew the appeal, and got sentenced to five years in prison for reckless endangerment, with four years suspended and sent to the Washington County Detention Center for 90 days, to be followed with nine months' home detention.

Prisoners lose benefits after 30 days--state has 'no sympathy'

According to his attorney, Lucky's motion requested a sentence modification--such as serving on weekends--before serving 30 days continuously. That the threshhold at which the SSDI benefits are threatened. Once lost, the benefits must be re-applied for. "Debes also noted that the Social Security Administration pamphlet, 'What Prisoners Need to Know,' states that prisoners can get benefits reinstated the month after the month they are released. " 'The state does not have any sympathy for Mr. Lucky,' Debes said. Dews lost her home, car and could not pay her medical bills, he said."

The SSA pamphlet

Following is a related excerpt from that SSA pamphlet:
What happens to my benefits when I am in prison? If you are receiving Social Security, your benefits will be suspended if you are admitted for more than 30 continuous days to a jail or prison because you were convicted of a criminal offense. Your benefits can be reinstated starting with the month following the month you are released. Although you cannot receive monthly Social Security benefits while you are confined, benefits to your spouse or children will continue as long as they remain eligible. If you are receiving SSI, your payments are suspended while you are in prison. Your payments can be reinstated in the month you are released. However, if your confinement lasts for 12 consecutive months or longer, your eligibility for SSI benefits will terminate and you must file a new application for benefits. Can I get my benefits started when I am ready to be released? If your Social Security or SSI benefits were suspended because you were in prison, you can request that they be started. You will need to contact Social Security and provide a copy of your release documents before we can take action on your request. Example: George was receiving Social Security disability benefits. He was convicted and confined to prison on May 15, 2007, and his benefits were suspended effective with May 2007. On October 10, 2009, George was released and his benefits were reinstated effective with November 2009. Since Social Security benefits are paid in the month following the month for which they are due, George will receive his November benefit in December. Example: Sam was receiving SSI disability benefits and was confined to prison on June 7, 2009. He was released on September 7, 2009. His SSI can be reinstated as of September 7. Sam will be eligible for a partial payment for September and full benefits for October. If you were not receiving either Social Security or SSI benefits before you went to prison or your SSI benefits were terminated, you will need to file a new application for benefits if you think you may be eligible. You should contact Social Security for more information about filing a claim for benefits. You will need to provide proof of your release from prison, in addition to a new application and other documents. NOTE: We cannot start your benefits until you are actually released. And we must have your official release documents from the jail or prison where you were confined. Please remember to bring your release forms when you visit your local Social Security office. This will help us get your benefits started more quickly.