Monday, November 4, 2013

Do I have to be a U.S. Citizen to get Social Security Disability?

I am often asked whether a person needs to have U.S. citizenship in order to be able to receive Social Security Disability benefits.  The answer depends greatly on the type of Social Security Disability program that is being applied for.  In previous blogs, I have explained that there are two Social Security Disability programs: SSDI and SSI: 
The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program pays benefits to you, if you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.  On the other hand, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a “welfare type of program” that pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources.
When it comes to citizenship requirements, different rules apply to each program:

Citizenship Rules for SSDI:

A person can receive SSDI as long as he or she is lawfully in the United States.  Therefore, a claimant does not have to be a U.S. Citizen in order to be eligible for benefits.  SSDI is based on contributions made by workers in to the Social Security Trust Fund. SSDI is not public assistance or welfare.  This is a benefit that a worker earns based on their contributions.  Typically, a person must work at least 5 out of the last 10 years to be able to qualify for SSDI.

Citizenship Rules for SSI:

A noncitizen may receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if the person meets the requirements of the laws for noncitizens that went into effect on August 22,1996 and all the other requirements for SSI eligibility, such as the limits on income and resources.  Under some circumstances, Cuban and Haitian refugees, as well as other political refugees, might be eligible for SSI.