Legislative Update for Week Ending March 13, 2015

Legislative Update for Week Ending March 13, 2015

This week, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) sent a memo to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding President Obama’s immigration orders and Social Security eligibility. In addition, one key legislator revealed that a permanent “doc fix” could pass by the end of the month.

CRS Sends Immigration Memo to Senate

Back in November, when President Obama’s executive orders were first announced, White House officials claimed that immigrants who received temporary work authorization would not be entitled to Social Security benefits. However, on Tuesday, CRS sent a memo to Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee explaining how they could become eligible for benefits, even for work that they did while in the country illegally.

The memo states: “Under the November 20, 2014, policy memorandum, foreign nationals who receive deferred action status may be eligible for work authorization. As a result, a foreign national who receives deferred action status may be able to have all of his or her Social Security covered earnings count toward qualifying for a Social Security benefit (all earnings from authorized and unauthorized work).”

The memo confirms that those who have worked in the country illegally – using fake, stolen, or fraudulent Social Security numbers – could earn Social Security credits for those earnings if they can provide proof of the work they did. It states: “It is unclear how easy it will be for a foreign national to prove that earnings credited to a Social Security number that was not issued to the foreign national … belong on his or her earnings record.”

A legislative aide who provided the memo to the Daily Caller said, “These benefits programs are in dire trouble, and they need to be preserved for legal immigrants and American citizens first and foremost.” TSCL agrees that immigrants should not receive benefits based on work done while in the country illegally.

Last year, we supported legislation that would close the loophole that allows this to occur, and we are hopeful that the No Social Security for Illegal Immigrants Act will be re-introduced this year, in the 114th Congress. In the meantime, we will continue to keep a close eye on the immigration reform discussions, and we will post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website.

Permanent “Doc Fix” Could Pass This Month

This week, Senator Ron Wyden (OR), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, revealed that lawmakers could negotiate a permanent “doc fix” before the March 31st deadline. Key lawmakers in the House have been working behind closed doors on a package that would repeal and replace Medicare’s sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula once and for all.

Sen. Wyden said on Wednesday, “I’ve been in Congress long enough to be skeptical of rumors, but what we are hearing from the House suggests there is real movement to fully repeal and replace the flawed formula.” The news comes as a surprise since just last week, leaders in the House said they expect to pass a short-term, six-month pay patch in order to buy more time for discussions on offsetting the $174 billion cost of an SGR replacement.

Sen. Wyden said, “If what we’re hearing is true, it’s good news and moves us closer to something I’ve been working tirelessly to achieve – a payment formula that stands on its own, doesn’t require annual, and expensive ‘patches,’ and which opens the door to improve the way care is delivered.”

TSCL is pleased by this week’s news, since a permanent replacement to the SGR would bring much-needed stability to the Medicare program for both doctors and Medicare patients. Should lawmakers fail to reach a compromise before the end of March, physicians and other providers who treat Medicare patients will see a 21 percent pay cut, which could jeopardize access to quality medical care for seniors.

We will closely monitor the discussions as they evolve in the coming days, and we will continue to advocate for a long-term solution on Capitol Hill.