Illegal Workers Could Claim Nearly $1 Trillion In Social Security

Illegal Workers Could Claim Nearly $1 Trillion In Social Security

TSCL In USA TODAY, and On CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight"

TSCL's efforts to publicize the cost of Social Security benefits based on illegal work, as well as a related totalization agreement with Mexico, are making some Members of Congress think twice about the impact of illegal immigration on Social Security.  Senator Arlen Specter (PA) was recently reported in USA TODAY as saying that immigration has replaced Social Security as the "third rail" of politics — an issue so incendiary most politicians are afraid to touch it.

A new estimate released by TSCL found that a loophole in current law would allow 2 million aliens to claim full Social Security benefits based on illegal work.  By 2040 the government would pay out more than $966 billion in Social Security.  USA TODAY reported "Shannon Benton of the Senior Citizens League, a group representing retirees, told a House of Representatives subcommittee last week that the bill ‘will result in significant damage to the already strained Social Security Trust Fund.'"

TSCL's $966 billion cost estimate is based on Social Security numbers (SSNs) issued to aliens prior to January 1, 2004.  Current law requires only aliens who receive Social Security numbers issued on January 1, 2004 or thereafter to have legal work authorization at some point in order to file a claim for benefits.  Aliens who received SSNs prior to January 1, 2004 and who worked illegally using those numbers can file a claim for benefits without ever having received legal work authorization.  In other words, they may claim benefits based entirely on illegal work.

Prior to January 1, 2004, the Social Security Administration issued 7 million SSNs that bear the inscription "NOT VALID FOR EMPLOYMENT."  Individuals who received such numbers were found to have a valid reason to have an SSN (for example they may have been eligible for public benefits), but those SSNs were not authorized for work in this country.

Nevertheless, the numbers have been widely abused and last year the Social Security Administration's Inspector General, in a little-noticed audit, said that the largest employer of those non-work SSN illegal workers are federal and state government agencies.  TSCL first reported this information in the November/December 2006 issue of The Social Security and Medicare Advisor article,"Failure to Enforce Immigration Laws Affects Your Benefits" When CNN's Lou Dobbs learned about the Inspector General's audit from Representative Steve King (IA), Shannon Benton was invited to appear on CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight."

Legalization of illegal immigrants appears to have proven too hot for Congress to handle for the moment, but the problem of aliens receiving Social Security benefits based on illegal work continues under current law.  TSCL is calling on Congress to close the loophole, and endorses the "No Social Security for Illegal Immigrants Act of 2007" (H.R. 736), introduced by Representative Dana Rohrabacher (CA).  The legislation would close the loophole by excluding earnings of any wages for unauthorized work.

Sources: "Social Security, Immigration Entwined In Debate," Kathy Kiely, USA TODAY, June 27, 2007.  "Employers With The Most Wage Items In The Non-Work Alien File," SSA Office Of The Inspector General, June 2006, A-08-05-15138.  "Shannon Benton On CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight," CNN, June 28, 2007.