If you’re a felon the government has figured out how to mess with you in still another way, without publicizing these additional (secret) penalties. I say secret because almost no one working at the BOP or Social Security Administration (SSA) knows this information. First of all, if you are older or disabled and receive social security or Medicare benefits those will stop the moment you enter prison. No social security payments or Medicare benefits are available to inmates. And the SSA is very on top of this, giving personal service to each convict to make sure no mistaken penny leaves the federal treasury that shouldn’t.
On the other side, when you leave prison, it turns out that the SSA has no idea that you were coming out and might need medical insurance, for example. Yes, that’s right as opposed to when you go in; when you leave prison there is no integration at all between SSA and BOP. In prison there is some medical care provided along with minimal dental care. But, the BOP doesn’t provide medical or dental coverage or services while you’re in a halfway house, or under home confinement. The BOP says that even though you’re still considered officially in prison, you are on your own for medical/dental care, but because you are still officially in prison, the SSA doesn’t recognize that you’re eligible for any SSA services during the halfway house or home confinement period! For the inmate who needs much medical care, serious consideration should be given to declining halfway house confinement and spending that period in prison, where medical care is available. And if/when the BOP gets to fully implementing the Second Chance Act of 2007 which allows for up to 12 months of HH time and an additional up to 6 months of home confinement, thinking about medical coverage during that period will be essential for anyone leaving prison.
When you do go to a SSA office, they’ll look at your computer record and say “Hey you never enrolled when you first should have.” Or you dropped out of the system and so if you want to re-enroll in Medicare, you have to wait for the open enrollment period, which was January through March of each year in 2010, but changes from time to time. When you enroll in this period, your Medicare coverage doesn’t start until the following July 1. So, depending on when you leave prison, you could be without the coverage the US Government promises senior citizens for anywhere from several months to over a year. For most, that means their medical care will come from individual state programs for the indigent – Medicaid. And most states will do a background check to see that you have no assets or home before enrolling you in such a program.
It gets worse. Once your Medicare coverage does start again, you will be paying more than others in your age and category. That’s because you will be billed an additional penalty of 10% of your Medicare premium for each 12 month period you were not paying premiums into the system.
So it's not a matter of no integration between these two huge government agencies, SSA and BOP, this is just additional non-statutory punishment that is handed out to older or disabled ex-convicts because the bureaucrats can get away with it.
- George Schussel