Q&A – Social Security Fraud And Illegal Immigration

Here’s an exchange via Twitter between followers of mine.

This illegal immigrant has been on OUR taxpayer money for TWENTY YEARS. She gets free housing, medicine and $700 a MONTH from Social Security. Meanwhile, there are Veterans that are homeless. Horrendous and must CHANGE NOW.

Illegal aliens can’t collect Social Security, even if they paid in. To get SSDI you must prove you have a condition that prevents you from working. Plenty of disabled people work.

Bottom Line: Let’s start with a straightforward answer to the question of if illegal immigrants who are eligible to obtain Social Security benefits. No. Only legal citizens are granted Social Security numbers which are required to obtain Social Security benefits. Now the straightforward answer as to if it happens. The answer is yes. Illegally. 

It’s unclear how many illegal immigrants specifically have participated in Social Security fraud. Instead, we have an idea of the extent of fraud in the general fund based on the Social Security Administration’s annual report summarized by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. More than 6.5 million Social Security numbers of deceased individuals are currently still active and $3+ billion in improper payments is paid out of the general fund annually.

As for the Social Security Disability Fund, 22,000 cases of illegal recipients who lacked valid Social Security numbers over the previous decade and $1+ billion in illegal payouts.

Clearly, the opportunity for illegal activity exists and it is exploited by some. At the same time, in perspective, it’s relatively small. Over $1 trillion in Social Security benefits is paid out annually. A fraction of 1% appears to be paid out to illegal immigrants. The Pew estimates there are more than 12 million illegal immigrants in the US. And, based on what we know, fewer than 1% of illegal immigrants are collecting some type of Social Security benefit. 

So, here’s the deal. We tend to talk in absolutes that are generally incorrect. On one hand, some say that illegal immigrants can’t and aren’t defrauding Social Security. That’s false, it happens. On the other hand, some will blame Social Security’s projected insolvency on illegal immigrants stealing benefits. That’s also incorrect, even if all of the fraud were eliminated it wouldn’t even account for 1% of future payouts. When the projected initial insolvency hits it'll be 21%.

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