Many people in Mexico may not be claiming U.S. Social Security benefits despite being entitled to them, Bob Barnett of the Social Security Administration at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico said Friday.
Due to a lack of understanding and education about the U.S. system, many beneficiaries are not claiming the social security benefits they have earned, he said.
This includes both U.S. citizens residing in Mexico and Mexican citizens who have worked in the United States.
A problem, he said, is that many Mexicans simply do not realize they are entitled to social security benefits.
If you have worked in the United States for a minimum of 10 years, then you should contact the Social Security Administration office because you may be eligible for retirement or other social security benefits.
Furthermore, if you are a dependent of someone who has worked in the United States — a widow, a child under the age of 19, or a disabled individual — you may also be entitled to claim social security benefits, he said.
The figures suggest, however, that many people who are entitled do not file for benefits. Barnett cites Puebla as an example.
“Puebla is showing only 600 beneficiaries throughout the whole state, and they’ve receiving approximately $420,000 a month in social security benefits into their economy. We know (there is a) huge population of Poblanos in New York, a huge population of Poblanos in Chicago. Why haven’t they come back? Why haven’t they contacted us to file for their benefits?
“These are the individuals that live in the pueblitos, in the ranchitos, and ejidos out in the county. Those are the ones we are trying to reach out there to get,” he said.
Mexico is the largest country in terms Social Security beneficiaries outside of the United States, with at least 83,000 recipients of benefits throughout the country.
Jalisco has the most beneficiaries of any state, with 18,000 people filing for social security benefits, which represents $11 million dollars per month going into their economy.
“One thing I want to make clear, and I think a lot of people misunderstand about Social Security benefits: they think, the fact that a Mexican national has worked in the United States and gets social security benefits, that they’re stealing those dollars from American workers and American beneficiaries. That’s the furthest thing from the truth.
“The fact is, social security benefits are calculated based on an individual’s work, so if this individual has worked and paid into the system, it’s an entitlement. They’re entitled to it, based on their contribution to the system,” he said.
He recalled the recent case of a 73-year-old U.S. citizen who was found dead in his apartment in Mexico City. He had been living in squalor.
“It tugs at my heartstrings,” he said. “This gentleman had eligibility for social security benefits in excess of $1,500 per month, and never filed for them, and when I think about that, the onus on that – I feel, and what I’ve told my staff – is on me. Where did we go wrong in not getting the information to that gentleman, and informing him basically of an opportunity that would have taken him from the level of poverty that he was at to a life that would have given him some quality?”
The office works closely with migrant agencies in every state, and engages with each on a yearly basis to inform migrants of their services through various outreach programs.
Beyond Social Security, Barnett’s offices also deal with people who may be entitled to veteran’s benefits, railroad beneficiaries, U.S. government workers and Medicare. While Medicare only covers individuals while they’re in the United States, many people choose to continue with the coverage so that in the event they have an accident or injury, they can travel back to receive care.
“It’s not a requirement, but it’s an option and I think a lot of beneficiaries residing in Mexico,” he said.
If you are a U.S. citizen residing in Mexico, or a Mexican citizen who has spent at least 10 years working in the United States, then you could be entitled to social security benefits.
BY J.E. COLLINSON
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