Date: August 5, 2008
Senate Passes H.R. 2608, the “SSI Extension for Elderly and Disabled Refugees Act”
On August 1, 2008 the Senate passed H.R. 2608, the “SSI Extension for Elderly and Disabled Refugees Act,” by unanimous consent. The Senate-passed version of H.R. 2608 is similar to the House version, which was passed July 11, 2007, by voice vote (see Legislative Bulletin 110-4). Because there are some differences between the two versions of the bill, H.R. 2608 now returns to the House for further action. The House may either adopt the Senate-passed version or request a conference to reconcile the differences.
Provisions that would affect the Social Security Administration are described below.
• Would temporarily extend the 7-year SSI eligibility period for refugees, asylees, and certain other humanitarian immigrants (including victims of human trafficking) to 9 years for the period October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2011. In order to qualify for the extension, certain noncitizens would be required to sign a declaration indicating that they have made a good faith effort to pursue U. S. citizenship (as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security in consultation with the Commissioner of Social Security).
• The 2-year extension would also apply retroactively to those noncitizens whose SSI had previously ceased solely due to the expiration of the 7-year period. For these individuals, SSI benefits would be paid prospectively, monthly over the duration of the noncitizen's renewed eligibility.
• Would define noncitizens (qualified aliens or victims of human trafficking) eligible for the 2-year extension as follows:
• Lawful permanent residents who have held such status for less than 6 years, and such status has not been abandoned or rescinded (as verified through the Commissioner in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security).
• Noncitizens who have applied to become lawful permanent residents within 4 years from the date they began to receive SSI (as verified through the Commissioner in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security).
• Cuban and Haitian entrants, as defined in section 501(e) of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980.
• Noncitizens who have had their deportation withheld by the Secretary of Homeland Security under section 243(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (as in effect on December 31, 1996) or whose removal is withheld under section 241(b)(3) of such Act.
• Noncitizens who have not attained age 18, or those who are age 70 or older.
• Would provide that noncitizens (qualified aliens or victims of human trafficking) who are under age 18 are exempt from the requirement to sign a declaration indicating that they have made a good faith effort to pursue U. S. citizenship.
• Specified noncitizens (as defined above) would also be exempt from the time-limited SSI eligibility period (during the 3-year window of October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2011) if they have naturalization applications pending or if they are awaiting the citizenship swearing-in ceremony, as verified by the Commissioner in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security. The exemption would also apply to individuals with applications pending who were previously rendered ineligible due to expiration of the 7-year period.
• Would be effective October 1, 2008, with the 9-year eligibility period reverting back to a 7-year period after September 30, 2011.