I was at the Social Security office yesterday to file the proper documentation to receive a replacement Social Security Card. Something I noticed while there was that they had a list of documents for non-citizens. This got me wondering, why are we providing Social Security benefits to non-citizens? I also noticed that a good number of people at the office waiting were foreigners.

I did a really simple google search and found this page from the official Social Security website:

http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/11051.html

This bit of text comes from the above source.

Who can get Supplemental Security Income?

Generally, if you are a noncitizen in one of certain immigration categories granted by the Department of Homeland Security, you may be eligible for SSI if:

* You were lawfully living in the United States on August 22, 1996, and you are blind or disabled;
* You were receiving SSI on August 22, 1996, and you are lawfully living in the United States; or
* You were lawfully admitted for permanent residence under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and have a total of 40 credits of work in the United States. (Your spouses or parents work also may count.)

Important: If you entered the United States on or after August 22, 1996, then you may not be eligible for SSI for the first five years as a lawfully admitted permanent resident even if you have 40 qualifying credits of earnings.

Some other noncitizens who may be eligible for SSI payments are:

* Active duty members of the U.S. armed forces;
* Noncitizen members of federally recognized Indian tribes;
* Certain noncitizens admitted as Amerasian immigrants; and
* Cuban/Haitian entrants under the Refugee Education Assistance Act.

There are other noncitizens who may be eligible for payments. If you are a noncitizen and want to apply for SSI benefits, it is best to contact us to see if you are eligible.

So here is my summary of some of the clear people who can get SSI benefits.

1. Refugees from Asia
2. A blind or disabled non-citizen
3. A non-citizen who has legally worked in the US for a minimum of 5 years.
4. Member of a federally recognized tribe
5. Cuban or Haitian

The good news is that it appears that you must be in the United States with a legal status to get benefits. It also appears that there is a strong focus on helping refugees get on their feet in a new society. This is an honorable thing to do. However, with the Social Security budget slowly coming to an end it has me wondering if some changes need to be in place.

The first would be the most obvious. The US government should under no circumstances be allowed to borrow money collected for Social Security or use these funds for anythign other than collecting interest for future beneficiaries and cover administrative costs.

My understanding of the situation is that Social Security is currently paying out more than it receives. Any fund needs to be able to make the money that it has promised to the investors, and not run in the negative. The good news, there is a surplus at the moment so there is some time to make some fixes. but the longer it takes to fix it the more difficult it will be to fix.

Now I am no expert on Social Security by any means. So if you are reading this, understand I acknowledge this. But if Social Security pays money out to people who come here from another country who may have never paid a single cent into the SS program, wouldn’t this mean less Social Security money for those who are paying into the system? And be a factor in less money being available in the future for current people paying into the system. From what I can see American Social Security payers are paying some of the living costs for Cuban, Haitian and some Asian refugees. I do like this. I recognize that a refugee may need some assistance to get on their feet, to find housing, buy clothing and feed their family for a period of time. But currently they can receive payments for up to 7 years. This seems excessive. Actually I would think that allowing people to collect for so long creates a dependency on the system. Why not have a system that pays a certain amount for the first 6 months and then decreases over the next 12 months. This will gradually force people to become fully capable of supporting themselves. And when they work they begin paying into the Social security system. I would even understand if an individual in this position would receive a slightly lower benefit at retirement due to having already received some benefits before paying into the system. but if the system can afford to pay the benefits when they arrive then, I would be ok for this to be a freebie for those who are here as refugees. Now if the government would stop dipping into the fund and if all capable individuals pay into the system their fair share the system should be stable.

Now I am basing a lot on a very fundamental understanding of Social Security, so I could be mistaken. But it makes sense to me that we can’t have a system that pays out more than what it collects and earns in interest. And if this is what the system is doing, then it needs to be fixed, and fixed soon. If only our political structure wasn’t so divided ideologically, mayb e we would have seen something happen. But since George Bush proposed a fix, our Congress dragged their feet and accomplished nothing. if a democrat president is elected and calls for Social Security reform I would expect to see the Republicans to drag their feet again. Less and less of politics involves actually trying to do something good for society. It is truly disappointing. So, essentially this problem has been placed on the back burner for future politicians to tackle.