Public Benefits

This PUBLIC BENEFITS CHAPTER will give you an overview of the public benefits (government assistance) available to you in reentry, including how a criminal record affects your application. This chapter explains the most common public benefits programs that can help provide things like: cash assistance, health care, or food in your transition.

DISCLAIMER – YOUR RESPONSIBILITY WHEN USING THIS GUIDE: When putting together the Roadmap to Reentry: A California Legal Guide, we did our best to give you useful and accurate information. However, the laws change frequently and are subject to differing interpretations. We do not always have the resources to make changes to this informational material every time the law changes. If you use information from the Roadmap to Reentry legal guide, it is your responsibility to make sure that the law has not changed and applies to your particular situation. If you are incarcerated, most of the materials you need should be available in your institution’s law library. The Roadmap to Reentry guide is not intending to give legal advice, but rather legal information. No attorney-client relationship is created by using any information in this guide. You should always consult your own attorney if you need legal advice specific to your situation.


WHAT WILL I LEARN in the public benefits chapter?

    Who is eligible for each type of public benefits What you get if you are eligible for public benefitsHow your criminal record could affect your ability to get public benefits Which public benefits you can apply for while incarcerated How and where to apply for public benefits What happens once you’re enrolled in public benefitsWhat to do if your public benefits are denied or ended

    1. What are public benefits?
    2. What should I know about federal, state, and county benefits?
    3. Can my criminal history limit my ability to get public benefits?
    4. Can I apply for public benefits while I’m incarcerated?

    1. General Assistance/General Relief (GA/GR)

    2. CalWORKs


    1. CalFresh (Food Stamps)

    2. Food Banks

    3. Women, Infants & Children Program (WIC)


    1. Why should I get health care coverage (health insurance)?
    2. Covered California

    3. Medi-Cal

    4. Medicare

  5. WORK Services BENEFITS

    1. CalFresh Employment & Training (E&T) Program

    2. CalWORKs Welfare-To-Work


    1. Social Security Retirement Benefits

    2. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

    3. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)


    1. Am I eligible for veterans’ (VA) benefits?
    2. Can my criminal history limit my ability to get VA benefits?
    3. How do I apply for VA benefits?
    4. Can I apply for VA benefits while incarcerated?
    5. I was receiving VA benefits before I got arrested. What happens to them while I’m incarcerated?
    6. My VA benefits were reduced or stopped while I was incarcerated. How do I restore or restart my VA benefits?
    7. I’m disqualified from VA benefits because of my negative discharge status. How can I have my discharge status reviewed for an upgrade?
  8. LifeLine Cell Phone & Landline Benefits

    1. What is the LifeLine Phone program?
    2. What benefits will the California LifeLine program provide?
    3. Am I eligible for the California LifeLine program?
    4. How do I apply for the California LifeLine program?
    5. What documents do I need to be found eligible?
    6. Can my criminal backGround limit my ability to get a California Lifeline phone?
    7. Can I apply for a California LifeLine phone while incarcerated?
    8. How do I receive my phone and Lifeline benefits?
    9. Once enrolled, what rules must I follow to remain eligible?
    10. I believe my LifeLine phone was wrongly denied or wrongly stopped service. How do I appeal?
    11. What if I have additional questions or problems?

    1. List of County Welfare Departments in California
    2. Cash Aid/CalFresh (Food Stamp) CSF 64 Form
    3. Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) Certification of Eligibility – EFA-7A Form
    4. Covered California – Application for Health Insurance Instructions
    5. Medi-Cal Form 210a: “Supplement to Statement of Facts for Retroactive Coverage/Restoration”
    6. Medicare Form: “Appointment of Representative” – CMS Form 1696 (English)/ “Nombramiento de un Representante” – CMS Form 1969 (español)
    7. Social Security Administration “Appointment of Authorized Representative” – Form SSA-1696-U4
    8. Authorization to Disclose Information to the Social Security Administration - Form SSA-827
    9. Social Security Administration’s Checklist for Online Adult Disability Application
    10. Department Of Veterans Affairs “Information Regarding Apportionment Of Beneficiary's Award” – VA Form 21-0788
    11. Department of Veterans Affairs “Application for Health Benefits – VA Form 10-10EZ
    12. Department of Veterans Affairs “Notice to Department of Veterans Affairs of Veteran or Beneficiary Incarcerated in Penal Institution – VA Form 21-4193
    13. Department of Defense “Review of Discharge or Dismissal” – DD Form 293
    14. Department of Defense “Application for Correction of Military Record” – DD Form 149