State Department Suppresses Social Security Totalization Documents
Major immigration legislation that provides a path to citizenship and, with it, access to Social Security is moving in both the Senate and the House. In addition, a Social Security Totalization Agreement with Mexico is still waiting in the wings. At this writing it is not known whether Congress will take any action barring the payment of Social Security benefits based on earnings from jobs worked while illegal.
Under current law, once immigrants obtain work authorization and Social Security numbers, those individuals become entitled to file claims for benefits. Social Security uses all earnings to determine entitlement to benefits, even for jobs worked without authorization. If immigrants have kept evidence like W2s, then earnings prior to the status change can be reinstated under the new valid Social Security numbers even when fraudulent or invalid documents were used for prior jobs worked without legal authorization.
As details about the legislation emerge, questions are growing about the cost when immigrants access Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare, Medicaid, and federal tax credits. The immigration bill under consideration tends to mask the costs because it would delay access to government benefits for at least a decade. This would mean that the full cost of the bill would occur outside of the 10-year budgetary window required for the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CO) cost estimates. If so, this would leave the public in the dark about the true costs of the bill.
Senators Charles Grassley (IA), Pat Roberts (KS) and Jeff Sessions (AL) have called for a CBO analysis of the potential long-term costs. They wrote that the government could be facing "substantial costs imposed on Medicare and Social Security as low-income former illegal immigrants retire and draw benefits in excess of what they paid into those programs."
No recent estimates of the Totalization Agreement with Mexico’s potentially high cost to the Social Security have been made public, either. TSCL is battling the U.S. State Department for the release of certain withheld documents, and has filed a series of lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The agreement was signed almost a decade ago during the last major push for immigration reform. To date, it has not been signed by the President or sent to Congress for a final review. "But that may change quickly as immigration reform legislation starts moving," says TSCL Chairman Larry Hyland.
TSCL is particularly concerned about the current government policy of determining entitlement to benefits based on earnings from jobs worked without authorization under fraudulent Social Security numbers. According to TSCL's 2013 Senior Survey, 87 percent of respondents strongly favor legislation to prohibit the payment of Social Security benefits that are determined on unauthorized work of illegal immigrants.
"Seniors need to be prepared to contact their Members of Congress," says Hyland. "Social Security cuts are looming," he notes. "Adding potentially millions in new beneficiaries and claims based on earnings while illegal would worsen Social Security solvency and add incentive for more illegal immigration." Seniors interested in more details, or wanting to send an email to members of Congress, please click here.
Sources: "Costs of Immigration Reform Split Conservatives," Eric Panin, The Fiscal Times, April 10, 2013. "Immigration Reform Debate Turns to Costs," David Yonkman, Newsmax, April 9, 2013. "Broad Outline of Senate Immigration Agreement Emerge," Preston and Parker, The New York Times, April 10, 2013. "Immigration Reform Costs: $7 Billion or $2.6 Trillion?" Josh Boak, Eric Panin, The Fiscal Times, April 17, 2013.