5 types of American citizens who are not eligible for Social Security

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

Very few US citizens are denied their Social Security benefits if they fit the minimum required criteria. However, there are always exceptions to the most lenient of policies if the citizens do not meet those criteria. These include:

Criteria #1: There is a minimum requirement to collect Social Security disability benefits: besides meeting the medical requirements, he Social Security Administration requires “enough work” as earning 40 Social Security credits. More specifically, in 2019, an individual receives one credit for each $1,360 in income, and they can earn a maximum of four credits per year. So, 40 credits are roughly equal 10 years of work.

If you earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, you’ll need 179.3 hours of work to receive one credit toward Social Security. By working just 15 hours a week at this wage, you’ll earn the maximum credits per year. That means even those who work part-time so they can attend school or care for a child—or those who work part-time because they cannot find full-time work—can amass Social Security credits without too much trouble.

Earned credits never expire, so anyone who has left the workforce with close to 40 credits might consider going back and doing the minimum additional work they need to qualify. You can check the number of credits you have so far on the Social Security website.

Criteria #2: Certain Legal Immigrants

Legal immigrants who have earned 40 Social Security work credits in the United States are eligible to receive full U.S. Social Security benefits. Immigrants who do not have enough U.S. credits but who come from one of the 26 countries with whom the United States has social security agreements or totalization agreements, can qualify to receive pro-rated benefits. These benefits are based on their work credits earned abroad combined with their U.S. work credits, an arrangement that is particularly helpful for older immigrants who are not likely to accumulate 10 years of work in the United States before retiring. Workers who have not earned at least six U.S. credits, however, cannot receive payments under totalization agreements.

Criteria #3: Certain Government Employees

Federal government employees hired before 1984 may be grandfathered into the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), which provides retirement, disability, and survivor benefits. These workers do not have Social Security taxes deducted from their paychecks and so are not eligible to receive Social Security benefits. They may still qualify if they have earned benefits through another job or a spouse; however, in these cases, CSRS pension payments may reduce Social Security payouts.

However, government workers who are covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) (which replaced CSRS) are eligible for Social Security benefits. 

Most state and local employees have Social Security protection under a government law called a Section 218 agreement. However, some of these workers, including those who work for a public school system, college or university, will not receive Social Security benefits if they do not pay Social Security taxes. But they generally receive pension benefits from their employers.

Criteria #4: Self-Employed Tax Evaders

Self-employed workers are lawfully required to report and pay self-employment tax on their earnings to cover both their own and the employer’s portion of Social Security contributions. The tax is calculated and paid each year when these workers file their federal tax returns. Those who fail to file their tax returns  and do not pay their Social Security taxes, unlike employees whose employers withhold and remit their Social Security taxes from each paycheck, are often exempted from receiving the Social Security benefits, especially SSDI when and if needed.

If you have no record of paying into the system, you are not going to receive payouts. However, if you have not reported income and successfully evaded taxes for a lifetime, you have no right to Social Security benefits. Your illegally retained untaxed earnings will have to fund your needs/disability after retirement.

Criteria #5: Certain Immigrants Over 65

Retired people who immigrate to the United States will not have the 40 U.S. work credits they need to qualify for Social Security benefits. One way to rectify this problem is to earn six work credits in the United States and receive pro-rated U.S. benefits combined with prorated benefits from your former country under a totalization agreement. This solution makes sense for workers who also do not have enough benefits in their home country to qualify for that country’s equivalent of Social Security payments. 

Older immigrants who do not qualify for U.S. Social Security and whose countries’ laws allow them to receive benefit payments while residing in the United States can claim their social security or pensioner’s benefits while living abroad.

In short, almost all retirees who have successfully earned enough work credits in the US workforce are eligible to receive their Social Security benefits and Social Security Disability benefits provided that they have reached full retirement age (not required for SSDI). However, some people who do not meet the above criteria may also receive the benefits from luck and presenting their case correctly.

If you need help with filing your social security disability or social security benefits, you may contact us.

About the Author
Ms. Shvarts is the managing attorney for Disability Advocates Group. She opened Disability Advocates Group to assist individuals who became disabled and unable to work to obtain the benefits they need and deserve.  Ms. Shvarts and the rest of the team at Disability Advocates Group are dedicated to assisting individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.