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Are immigrants working when they are eligible for disability?

A recent study has revealed that immigrants are more likely than native born workers to work while they suffer from a disability or impairment.  The disabilities these immigrants face would be covered by public assistance, including Social Security Disability Insurance – if they qualified.


Why are foreign born and non-US citizens missing out on coverage that the rest of us enjoy?  Two reasons, say researchers.  First, foreign born citizens may not be eligible for disability assistance due to residency requirements, citizenship rules, refugee status, work history requirements or other factors.


Second, foreign born or non-native English speakers may qualify for disability benefits, but may not realize it because of the language barrier.  Foreign workers with disabilities are most often found in jobs that require physical work, like production and cleaning or maintenance.  Compare this to disabled American citizens, who most often work in sales or office administrative jobs.


With 13 percent of the U.S. population consisting of foreign-born people – and the number rising every day – the challenges we face as a nation responsible for the health and well-being of all workers continues to grow.  We face difficult questions about the types of benefits we give and deny those who were not born in this country.


At the very least, more can be done to address the language barrier that keeps many foreign workers from claiming disability benefits they have rightfully earned under the law, but don’t know about.