I recently received a question as to whether a person can collect SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) if he or she has the immigration status of Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) and becomes disabled. At first I did not think so because TPS is a temporary status. Generally speaking, non-immigrants are not able to collect much in the way of public benefits. However, as I researched further, I found out to my surprise that people who have valid TPS may collect SSDI.
TPS is granted by the United States Attorney General to nationals of certain countries when they cannot return to their country due to an ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. The following countries are currently designated for TPS: El Salvador, Nicaragua, Burundi, Honduras, Somalia and Sudan.
Persons on TPS are granted work authorization. As long as they have worked lawfully (with a Social Security number valid for work purposes), worked in jobs in which Social Security taxes (FICA) were deducted, and have sufficient earnings, they may collect SSDI. The key is whether there are sufficient earnings. My colleague, Jonathan Ginsberg, publisher of the Social Security Disability blog explains this concept well on his post, “Have You Worked Enough to Qualify for Disability.” Mr. Ginsberg writes:
“In order to be “fully insured” for disability, you need to have at least 20 credits in your account within the last ten years (fewer credits may be required for workers in their teens or twenties). It is possible to earn a maximum of 4 credits per year. Over ten years, therefore, you can earn a maximum of 40 credits (4 x 10). If you have earned 20 credits during the ten years prior to the onset of your disability (when you stopped working), you are insured for disability purposes.”
As each TPS program varies in length, it may possible for some nationals of certain countries to have sufficient earnings to collect at this time. But as Mr. Ginsberg notes, it is not sufficient to have worked for a number of years; a person has to work and earn a certain amount in order to be credited for that work. Mr. Ginsberg has published the amounts needed in his post, “Have you Worked Enough to Qualify for Disability.”
It may be complicated to figure out eligibility, but it is well worth the time. I would be curious to know how many people with TPS apply for SSDI. My guess is that most people who are eligible do not know about it.