HAVANA 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.
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.