Thursday, October 30, 2014

Immigration, the trumped up credentials, and the SSA

 If something were to have happened to Jose, the kids and I would have been without any type of survivor benefits. I'm not a morbid person by any means but the planner in me wants to always be ready for anything that may happen. Since my father slipped into a three week coma before passing away in 2010, I have had my affairs in order. Do you know what it's like to make a DNR decision for someone when they have left you nothing to go on? After I suffered and agonized and got my father's affairs in order, I flew straight home and set up a living will and testament for my family. I have young children who will not see adulthood for many years to come. 

Almost better than receiving the elusive green card is the valid social security number. Growing up, I hated being a number in a system. Enter the Army and now I have to stencil my social security number in big black numbers over all my gear. People freak out nowadays about keeping their number super secret and I'm like what the hell ever, my number has traveled through so many countries that it's not worth bothering now! You have a child, you register for a social security number, and you don't think about it anymore. Now hike across the burning desert in search of the dream and it becomes a lot bigger than that!
Currently available for about $150 on street corners in just about any immigrant neighborhood in California, a typical fake ID package includes a green card and a Social Security card. It provides cover for employers, who, if asked, can plausibly assert that they believe all their workers are legal. It also means that workers must be paid by the book - with payroll tax deductions. - New York Times (2005) 
It works the same way here in Oregon, drive to a certain corner in a certain town and just hang out for a bit, and they will come to you. You must not look like an American though, not light skin or suspicious airs, or you'll go home empty handed. Now they are getting wise and sending in the Latinos undercover to trap the vendors. What that piece of paper did create was a huge flow of money into the coffers of the Social Security Administration, billions of dollars of money.
As the debate over Social Security heats up, the estimated seven million or so illegal immigrant workers in the United States are now providing the system with a subsidy of as much as $7 billion a year. Illegal Immigrants Are Bolstering Social Security With Billions according to the New York Times April 5, 2005
Jose had been working here until a fictitious number and paid thousands of dollar into the SSA. Every year after you file your taxes, you get a letter from the SSA letting you know that they are having difficulty matching your wages up with your social security number and could you please respond with a copy of your card. It is no secret what is happening and our government doesn't do anything because it is more beneficial than detrimental. The IRS issues you an ITIN (Individual Tax Identification Number) to use when filing your taxes. You send in your W-2's each year with the bogus social security numbers and your ITIN on the front of the form. You get your limited refunds or you pay your taxes. Being married to a spouse with only an ITIN, I lost my privilege to claim the Earned Income Credit every single year, until this one.

This year it all changes. This year I amend all the paperwork and wrongs and I continue to better my family. Yesterday I drove to the post office and mailed a letter to the IRS and asked them to please cancel his ITIN number and update their records with the new social security  number. It's unlawful to have both an ITIN and an SSN assigned to one person. I used a sample letter that I found here. Since we are planning to file bankruptcy, I won't be updating his credit bureaus!! I should receive a letter in approximately a month confirming the update.

The next step had me awake until 12:30 in the morning. I dug through our files and pulled out the last 11 years worth of tax returns. I carefully separated each one by year and then I created a header at the top of a word document. On the top line is font size 24 and bold, I put the year. On the second line, I put his full legal name and the (other) SSN and the new SSN. On the next line, I put the total amount of earnings and the names of the employers on the W-2s. Then I printed out that sheet. Then I put that sheet of paper back into my printer, set the W-2s on the glass and then hit the copy function. What came out was a sheet of paper with all the pertinent info on it and copies of the W-2s right below on the same sheet. For the years that he had more than 2 employers, I added a second sheet and wrote page 1 of 2, page 2 of 2, etc. All told, it came to almost $270,000 of earnings and thousands of dollars paid into social security and medicare. I filled out this form (SSA-7008) that I found on the SSA's website for correcting earnings. I filled it out and where it asked me to list the employer's and earnings, I wrote "see attached" since there was not near enough room. We went together to the SSA office with his valid social security card clutched in hand and feeling a little nervous about what type of representative that we'd end up dealing with. After a 15 minute wait, we were called to the window and I handed the paperwork to the lady and explained our situation. She asked Jose the security questions and then sought assistance from a colleague who assured her that we had everything in order. She asked Jose to sign the form and asked where the other number had come from. I just told her that it had never been issued and was undocumented. She said no more and we were all done. We should receive a letter in a month showing the earnings that have been credited to his account. Then we can log online and determine his estimated benefits.

Disclaimer: If you have worked under another name or have not filed taxes correctly, be prepared to not receive credits for your earnings or expect a demand from the IRS for any back taxes that they feel you owe. We did everything correctly so this can only be beneficial for our family!

UPDATE 2/24/15: We received our confirmation letter in the mail today that all of Jose's wages have been moved over to his new social security number. We were able to log onto the SSA website and view his estimated benefits for disability, survivor, and retirement.

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