TN 8 (02-08)
PR 06805.046 South Dakota
A. PR 08-062 Furloughed Prisoner
DATE: February 11, 2008
This opinion is explaining why SSA considers an social security beneficiary "confined" pursuant to section 202(x)(1)(A)(i) of the Social Security Act (the Act) for more than 30 continuous days even though the inmate is furloughed every 28 days during his 180-day sentence of confinement. The opinion explains why the furlough is ignored as a period of absence during the 180-day sentence. Under South Dakota law, a furlough could be interpreted as comparable to work release, which is considered confinement under the regulations and Agency policy.
Whether a Title II recipient is "confined," pursuant to section 202(x)(1)(A)(i) of the Social Security Act (the Act), if, while incarcerated for a 180-day sentence, he has a 2-day "furlough" every 28 days.
For the reasons explained below, we believe the recipient would be "confined" under section 202(x)(1)(A)(i) of the Act.
According to information you provided, a judge sentenced a Title II Disability Insurance Benefits recipient to six months (180 days) in jail in Hot Springs, South Dakota. The recipient's attorney asked and the sheriff agreed to give the recipient a 2-day "furlough" every 28 days. You did not indicate whether the recipient actually leaves the jail during his "furlough." It is our understanding from your e-mail that the recipient's "furloughed" time will be added to the end of his sentence, resulting in a 192-day sentence. The judge's order did not mention a "furlough," and the judge has not signed any supplemental orders authorizing a 2-day "furlough." Your request suggests the "furlough" is an attempt to circumvent the 30-days confinement language in section 202(x), so the recipient can continue to receive benefits during his sentence.
The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Act of 1999 amended section 202(x) of the Social Security Act (the Act) to require, as relevant here, that an individual must be convicted of a criminal offense and remain in the institution for more than 30 continuous days before the Agency will suspend his benefits._/1 Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Act of 1999, Pub. L. No. 106-170, § 402(b), 113 Stat. 1860, 839 (1999) (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. § 402(x)(1)(A)). Section 202(x) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 402(x), provides in pertinent part:
(1)(A) Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, no monthly benefits shall be paid under this section or under section 223 to any individual for any month ending with or during or beginning with or during a period of more than 30 days throughout all of which such individual-
(i) is confined in a jail, prison, or other penal institution or correctional facility pursuant to his conviction of a criminal offense. . . .
(B)(i) For purposes of clause (i) of subparagraph (A), an individual shall not be considered confined in an institution comprising a jail, prison, or other penal institution or correctional facility during any month throughout which such individual is residing outside such institution at no expense (other than the cost of monitoring) to such institution or the penal system or to any agency to which the penal system has transferred jurisdiction over the individual.
The Agency published the applicable regulations, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.468(a), (c), 404.1506(d), prior to the 1999 legislation and has not updated the regulations to reflect the statutory change that requires confinement for 30 days. See 49 Fed. Reg. 48,182 (Dec. 11, 1984) _/2; 48 Fed. Reg. 5,714 (Feb. 8, 1983). Nevertheless, in those regulations, the Agency chose to interpret the term "confined" broadly. The preamble to the final rules which implement section 202(x)(1) of the Act reflects the Agency's broad interpretation of the term "confined."_/3 49 Fed. Reg. 48181, 48182 (Dec. 11, 1984). Under 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.468(a), (c), a convicted felon sentenced to confinement in a penal facility is considered "confined" for benefit suspension purposes, even though he or she is serving such sentence outside the bounds of the penal facility. The regulation at 20 C.F.R. § 404.1506(d) also defines "confinement" broadly, stating that the Agency considers an individual to be confined, even if that person is temporarily or intermittently outside of the Office of the Inspector General, Region VIII facility, e.g., on work release. See also POMS GN 02607.160.A.3; cf. 28 C.F.R. § 570.36, Table 1, Item 3 (2007) (Bureau of Prison regulation providing that an inmate remains in the custody of the institution while on "furlough" status.).
The South Dakota statutes do not define the term "furlough." State v. Rollag, 400 N.W.2d 278, 279 (S.D. 1987). We note, however, that the term "furlough" appears in some South Dakota statutes in the same context as work release or similar program outside the correctional facility. See S.D. Codified Laws §§ 22-24B-13 (1994) (sex offenders duty to register prior to discharge, parole, furlough, work release or similar program outside the facility), 24-15-8.2 (1986) (notification to victim or sentencing judge of the inmate being placed on regularly scheduled furlough or work release), 24-11A-17 (1991) (an inmate is guilty of escape if the inmate leaves place of employment or approved community activity, pass, furlough, or sign-out location). Likewise, at least one South Dakota Supreme Court case refers to "furlough" as a work "furlough" or other work release program. See e.g., Rollag, 400 N.W.2d 278 (court referred to work release as work furlough). The Agency considers a Title II recipient on work release to be confined for the purposes of section 202(x) of the Act. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.468(a), (c); 404.1506(d); POMS GN 02607.160.A.3. As such, we believe the Agency could consider the recipient in this case "confined" for the purposes of section 202(x) of the Act._/4
Under South Dakota Law, a "furlough" could be interpreted as akin to work release, which is considered confinement under the regulations and Agency policy. As such, the Agency could suspend the recipient's benefits until he completes his sentence, which, if he continues to be furloughed, could be extended beyond 180 days to 192 days.
Deana R. E~-L~
Chief Counsel, Region V
Stephanie F. K~
Assistant Regional Counsel
_1 Section 402(b) of Pub. L. 106-170 eliminated the requirement that a prisoner's confinement stem from a crime which is punishable by imprisonment for more than 1 year and replaced it with the requirement that a prisoner be confined for 30 days before the Agency will suspend Title II benefits.
_2 Although the regulations were amended in 1997, the amendment was technical, changing the word "Secretary" to "Commissioner." See 62 FR 38450, July 18, 1997.
_3 The preamble to the final rules which implemented the original prisoner nonpayment provision in former section 223(f) of the Act, 48 Fed. Reg. 5711, 5713 (Feb. 8, 1983), also broadly interpreted the term "confined."
Office of the Inspector General, Region VIII facility, e.g., on work release. See also POMS GN 02607.160.A.3; cf. 28 C.F.R. § 570.36, Table 1, Item 3 (2007) (Bureau of Prison regulation providing that an inmate remains in the custody of the institution while on "furlough" status.).
_4 As noted, we do not know whether the recipient actually leaves the correctional facility during his furlough. If he remains on the grounds of the correctional facility, he remains not only legally confined, but also physically confined. Although our position does not rely on physical confinement, such confinement during furlough would strengthen our position that the beneficiary should not receive Title II benefits. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 402(x)(1)(A), (B).