You asked whether the documentation submitted by the number holder shows his confinement
should have ended earlier than his actual release date from prison on August 1, 2012,
and, if so, whether the Social Security Administration (SSA) should reinstate Title
II benefits it suspended during any part of his confinement.
Although the state recalculated the number holder’s release eligibility date, because
the number holder was confined based on a conviction until August 1, 2012, SSA properly
suspended his Title II benefits and should not reinstate any benefits.
According to the information provided, Timothy, the number holder (NH), pled guilty
in the Circuit Court for Williamson County, Tennessee on August 9, 2010, to two counts,
driving under the influence (count one) and habitual motor vehicle/traffic offender
(count four). The court sentenced NH to one-year for count one and two-years for count
to four to run consecutively. However, the court suspended NH’s sentence and placed
him on probation. NH was arrested on February 25, 2011, on a warrant revoking his
probation for both counts. On March 22, 2011, the court revoked NH’s probation for
both counts, and he was confined in prison to serve his original sentence.
On June 27, 2012, the court granted NH’s petition for post-conviction relief. The
court found that the sentence for count one expired on February 19, 2011, which was
prior to the issuance of the warrant revoking NH’s probation. Therefore, the court
set aside the revocation of the one-year suspended sentence for count one and found
that only the two-year sentence for count four should have been revoked during the
revocation hearing. The court ordered the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC)
to recalculate NH’s sentence based on only the revocation of count four.
In a sworn affidavit, the Director of Sentence Management Services for the TDOC explained
that, based on the new calculations, NH had a release eligibility date of July 2,
2011, and an expiration date of October 19, 2012. On August 1, 2012, NH was physically
released from prison.
Based on NH’s confinement in prison, SSA suspended NH’s disability insurance benefits
from March 2011 to August 2012 pursuant to section 202(x) of the Social Security Act
(Act). NH contacted SSA, asking SSA to reinstate his benefits from July 2011 to August
2012 because his sentence had been miscalculated.
Under section 202(x) of the Act, SSA cannot pay benefits to any individual for any
month (or part of a month) for which he or she is confined in jail, prison, or other
correctional facility for conviction of a criminal offense. See Act § 202(x)(1)(A)(i). When an individual violates probation, SSA will suspend the
individual’s benefits when the court makes an official determination to revoke probation
and the individual is placed in confinement at a correctional institution after revocation
of probation. See Program Operations Manual (POMS) GN 02607.200B.4.
Confinement is defined as residing in a correctional or mental health institution.
See Act § 202(x)(1)(A)(i)-(iii); POMS GN 02607.001B.2. Confinement ends with pardon, parole, or end of sentence and an official release.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.468(c) (2014);  POMS GN 02607.160A.3. A conviction is the result of a criminal trial that ends in a judgment or sentence
that the individual is guilty as charged. See POMS GN 02607.001B.3. A court of competent authority will judge an individual’s guilt at the conclusion
of trial or may accept a guilty plea. See POMS GN 02607.160A.2.a. An individual is considered “convicted” unless his or her guilty plea is set aside
or his or her conviction is overturned. See POMS GN 02607.160B.1. The primary rationale underlying the prisoner suspension-of-payment provision
is that a convicted criminal defendant is maintained at public expense and has no
need for a continuing source of social security income. See POMS PR 06805.012A (PR 00-219). If a conviction is overturned, however, SSA generally reinstates an
individual’s suspended benefits and repays any benefits withheld. See POMS GN 02607.200A.3.
Under Tennessee law, when a defendant has violated the conditions of probation and
suspension of sentence, a judge has the right to revoke the probation and enforce
the original sentence. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-311(e)(1)(A) (West 2014); see also POMS GN 02607.200B.4 (explaining probation). The sentence imposed upon revocation of probation is for
the original criminal conviction. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 40-35-310(a), 40-35-311(e)(1)(A) (West 2014) According to Tennessee
law, inmates with felony sentences of two years or less shall have their original
sentence suspended to probation upon reaching their release eligibility date. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-501(a)(3), (a)(5) (West 2014)
Based on the TDOC’s calculations, NH should be been released to probation on July
2, 2011, for the revocation of probation of count four. Although the court set aside the revocation of probation for count one, NH remained
incarcerated based on the revocation of probation for his conviction under count four.
Neither the probation revocation nor the original conviction under count four were
overturned. Furthermore, when the court ordered recalculation of NH’s sentence, the
TDOC determined NH’s expiration of sentence for revocation of probation under count
four was October 19, 2012. Even if under state law NH should have been released from
prison earlier based on his release eligibility date, he nonetheless was confined
in prison for the conviction of a criminal offense until August 1, 2012. See Act § 202(x)(1)(A)(i); 20 C.F.R. § 404.468(c); POMS GN 02607.001B.2; POMS GN 02607.160A.3; see also POMS PR 06805.011A (PR 08-010); POMS PR 06805.012A (PR 00-219) (concluding that where prisoner was inappropriately denied early release
credits, SSA properly suspended his benefits for entire time he was confined in prison).
While confined, the prison was meeting NH’s basic living needs, and NH was maintained
at public expense through August 1, 2012. Therefore, section 202(x) of the Act required
SSA to suspend NH’s Title II benefits until he was released from confinement.
Based on the evidence provided, NH was confined in prison based on a conviction of
a criminal offense from March 2011 to August 2012. Because the probation revocation
and underlying conviction for count four were not overturned, SSA properly suspended
NH’s benefits through August 2012.
Mary Ann Sloan
Regional Chief Counsel
Assistant Regional Counsel