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SSI- Left country, what will happen to my benefits?

Moved out of U.S. does SSI stop?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is for the disabled, blind or aged (65 years or older) who are unable to work for at least 12 continuous months. Because SSI is offered to applicants who have not worked and earned what the Social Security Administration (SSA ) “work credits” and do not qualify for either Social Security Disability Insurance  (SSDI) or SSA retirement benefits (assuming they are old enough to retire)  it is similar to other welfare programs and the applicants must have VERY limited income and resources to qualify.

We recently had a disability applicant ask what would happen to their Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit if they were to leave the United States and decided to live in another country. Outside of the United States specifically means “not one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands or American Samoa.”

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applicants that leave the United States (as defined above) for at least 30 days in a row they will lose their SSI benefits until they return to the United States and stay in the country for at least 30 days in a row. Consider also that if you are not a citizen of the United States you may, according to the SSA, “have to prove you were lawfully present in the United States for that 30-day period. For more information, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate or Social Security office

According to the SSA, there are exceptions for dependent children of military personnel and students studying abroad.

Why do some disability recipients keep their benefits outside the United States?

When we talk about SSI many applicants confuse it with other benefits offered by the SSA: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or SSA retirement benefits. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is offered to disabled workers, like SSI, but to qualify the worker must have worked long enough and paid enough in employment taxes to be considered “insured.”

SSA retirement benefits are benefits offered to aged workers. For SSA retirement the worker does not have to be disabled to qualify, but they must have reached their early retirement age and they must have worked and paid enough in employment taxes to be considered insured.

According to the SSA, unlike SSI benefits, if you receive SSA retirement or SSDI benefits and you are living abroad the SSA will continue to send you payments. Exceptions are made if you move to certain countries specifically Cuba, North Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, or areas that were in the former Soviet Union (other than Armenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Russia).

The SSA will not send any types of payments to these two countries. Some countries may allow an exception and you may be able to appear at embassy to collect your check each month.  The good news is that although you are not getting your checks the checks can be “held” for you until you get back.

The best thing to do if you have questions about your SSDI or SSI payments is to contact the SSA at 1-800-772-1213.

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