Cuba Off-Bounds for US Social Security

Ivette Leyva Martinez (Cafe Fuerte)

aeropuertocubaHAVANA TIMES — People who receive supplementary assistance from the US Social Security Administration and travel to Cuba for an extended stay will lose their benefits after a month’s stay outside the United States.

Officials of the Social Security Administration (SSA) in Miami explained to Café Fuerte the regulations governing access to social assistance benefits in the wake of growing questions in the émigré community about the possibility for US citizens and residents collecting their monthly benefits while in Cuba.

“The person is not eligible for SSI benefits [Supplemental Security Income] for any whole month they are outside the United States,” said Maria Diaz, spokesman for the SSA in the Southern Florida District.

Clear rules

The governmental SSI program makes monthly payments to low-income people (adults and children), people older than 65, and those who are blind or have other disabilities.

The official also said that US citizens who settle in Cuba can not receive their payments there, according to regulations established by the US Treasury Department.

“If you are a US citizen, you can receive the benefits withheld due to your stay in Cuba, once you are in a country where you can receive these payments,” he said, but “Not in Cuba.”

Payments cannot be collected or sent to the island through intermediaries, said the US authorities.

Concerns and complaints about this matter have skyrocketed since the implementation in Cuba of a new immigration policy, starting January 14, that allows Cuban immigrants stays of up to 90 days on the island. Residents abroad can even request to return and obtain permanent residence in the country, upon prior request to Cuban diplomatic representations abroad or at the Ministry of the Interior(MININT) on the island.

Traveling to Cuba

The relaxed policy implemented by the government of Raul Castro includes the option for people to stay outside the country for 24 months without applying for a permit. This allows them to take advantage of the Cuban Adjustment Act [a fast-track to permanent US residency] while enabling them to return to the island without being classified as an emigrant by the Cuban authorities.

Many Cubans who are legal residents or naturalized US citizens are traveling to Cuba for long periods or plan to settle there on their retirement benefits. The Cuban government has recognized that around a thousand emigrants return annually to stay in the country, many of them from the United States.

During the last 12 years, some 380,000 Cubans have obtained legal residency in the United States and more than 189,000 have taken on US citizenship.

Of those elderly Cubans who have come to the United States, hundreds of them have benefited from the SSI program. Currently assistance consists of $710 per month and does not exclude the beneficiary from being eligible for other social assistance programs.

Responses from SSA on collecting SSI

Can people who receive supplementary assistance or SSI live in Cuba for months and still receive their payments?
No. The person is not eligible for SSI benefits for any whole month they are outside the United States. For more information about Social Security outside of the United States, click on the link Sus pagos mientras esté fuera de los Estados Unidos (Your PaymentsWhile You Are Outside the United States).

For what period of time will the person lose their SSI payments?

SSI benefits cease after 30 consecutive days outside the United States. Be these will resume (if the person still meets all the eligibility requirements) following 30 continuous days after their return to the United States.

Can Social Security payments be collected in Cuba or deposited in a bank account and subsequently transferred to Cuba if the Social Security beneficiary is a citizen or resident of the United States?

No. Treasury Department regulations prohibit sending payments to Cuba. If you are a US citizen, you can receive the benefits that were withheld due to your stay in Cuba once you are in a country where you can get paid. (See the link above for the list of countries to which we send payments).

Is it legal for a person to name a friend or family member to receive assistance in their name in the US or receive benefits in a bank while in Cuba?

No. It’s not permissible to receive benefits on behalf of another adult.
An HT authorized translation of the original published in Spanish by the Cafe Fuerte website.

10 thoughts on “Cuba Off-Bounds for US Social Security

  • For those of us who come often this is not a prob If i choose to stay I know the rules and will follow them when that tine arrives

  • Social Security recipients need not worry about this. There are no funds to enforce this new Obama diktat–another “unfunded mandate!” Just another press release to appease the Cuban-American dynosaurs in Miami. If you’re a U.S. retiree staying in Cuba for the winter–or at least, with tourist extension, for two months–you need only fly through a third country, such as Canada (Montreal or Toronto), Mexico (Cancun, or Tiajuana, on to Mexico City). When you return, of course, don’t volunteer to the U.S. Customs, or the U.S. Border Patrol, that you’ve been to Cuba. (Of course, it goes without saying not to be wearing your “Che” t-shirt, or smoking a Cohiba, as you go through customs!). Although Habana can be expensive, (not so much if you know Spanish, stay at a casa particular, and exist in the CUP economy) the provinces can be much more reasonable, especially if you rely on Social Security for much of your retiree income. Casas particulares (“bed-and-breakfasts”) can be as inexpensive as $15/noc + meals, three-star hotels as inexpensive as $23/noc., breakfasts included. If you know Spanish, you can pretty much go to restaurants which cater to Cubans in CUPS (Cuban pesos, rather that CUC’s, or convertible pesos), use local mass transit buses, “almendrones” (almonds, or jitneys) or even horse-drawn jitney carts.
    There are cheaper , “legal” alternatives for lower-income retirees, of course, such as Mexico, Guatemala, Panema and Ecuador, but wouldn’t you rather do something “illegal” and “forbidden,” yet with so little real risk, before you “hand in your card?”

  • Israel does not practice apartheid. The Arab citizens of Israel have the right to vote & the right to live where they wish. There are Arab members in the Knesset, an Arab judge on the Supreme court, and Arab officers in the IDF. There is no equivalence to apartheid.

  • “… prohibit investments in an apartheid South Africa or other socially irresponsible investments” Curiously though, Moses, Israel is still allowed full payment privileges.

  • Not nearly as good as the income the Castros received from the Soviet Union and are now receiving from Venezuela!

  • It is my understanding, Moses, that there is no money whatsoever in the Social Security TRUST fund; and that this so-called “fund” holds nothing but a stack of I.O.U.s for all the money transferred to the gov’t General Fund, and wasted over the last seven or eight decades on interest payments to the monopoly banks, invasions of weaker nations, etc.

    The stack of I.O.U.s, as I recall, represents over 2 trillion dollars debt to retirees, and this debt will now have to come from general tax revenues.

    If you would like to recommend to someone, or some agency, to administer Social Security funds responsibly, may I suggest that you begin with the two major parties of the monopoly banks, the Democrats and Republicans.

  • The American taxpayer is coughing up bigtime,two hundred and five million dollars over fifteen years.Opposing the gov.has turned out to be a very good scource of income for these disidents.

  • Not fair! US taxpayers should be allowed to subsidize the Cuban regime. Down with the embargo!

  • To the individual retiree, this policy seems unfair. However, it makes sense that disbursing funds from the Social Security TRUST fund to Communist Cuba would be prohibited. Even though every individual payee has contributed their personal money into the fund, the TRUST has a responsibility to other payees to responsibly administer the fund. It is this logic that allowed Legislators in the past to prohibit investments in an apartheid South Africa or other socially irresponsible investments. This is yet another reason for those who would choose to spend their hard-earned and well-deserved retirement in Cuba to work all the harder now to urge the Castros to make the changes necessary to hasten the lifting of the embargo.

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