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SSA Wrongfully Denies Refugees

December 17, 2010

Author: Catherine M. Callery (Kate)| Louise M. Tarantino

Advocates from the Syracuse region report that at least several SSI claims representatives misunderstand SSI refugee eligibility.  The ins and outs of the rules are admittedly convoluted.  Click here for a summary these eligibility restrictions.

It is clear, however, that an eligible refugee cannot be denied her SSI because she adjusted her status from refugee to LPR (legal permanent resident).  A Syracuse resident was recently informed in her denial letter that she could not get SSI because she was not a citizen and not a refugee.  This is contrary to the law and SSA policy.  See 8 USC §§1641(b)(1) & (3); 8 USC §§1612(a)(20(A)(i); POMS SI 00502.100(A)(2)(a)(1) & (4), and A(3)(e); POMS SI 00502.106 A(1) & B(1); and POMS SI 00502.100A(6).   The Utica SSA office made similar mistakes in the past year.

Refugees generally get their LPR status backdated to their date of entry as refugees (see 8 CFR §209.1(e)), which is supposed to be listed on their LPR cards, along with their category that indicates admittance as a refugee (RE6, RE7, RE8, or RE9).  The time limited access of refugees and asylees to SSI (seven years) applies whether or not the refugee or asylee adjusts status to permanent resident during that period.

Barbara Weiner of the Empire Justice Center reports that this problem used to come up occasionally right after PRWORA (Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act) passed in 1996. Policy clarifications were issued right away by the federal agencies, and according to Barbara, the problem apparently went away until these recent cases in Syracuse and Utica. Barbara is interested in hearing if other DAP advocates are seeing this misapplication of the law happening in other places around the state.  She can be reached at


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