Social Security is an alien concept in India, from where I am, and this concept interests me: I have been reading and discussing this with friends recently.

One friend from Vietnam, who became a citizen through the H1B a decade ago, shared with me that his parents get paid ~$900 each/month. His father also got a bypass surgery via Medicare at not cost.

His parents had never worked or been to the U.S. before and definitely had not paid any taxes to enable them to be eligible for Social Security.

When I pointed this out, it became apparent that my friend was actually unsure what that amount was. Other people suggested it was welfare.

Out of all these discussions I had the following questions:

  1. Is it possible for anyone to receive $900 as Social Security? It would not even cover health insurance and rent for senior people.

  2. Is it possible for anyone without their 40 credits to be eligible for Social Security?

  3. In case my friend did confuse Social Security with welfare, is anyone with seniority eligible for welfare? How is welfare funded and paid out?

Please treat this question objectively: if certain parts of my question seem subjective, leave a comment and I will reword it as suggested.

  • 1
    4 - is off topic I have removed that part. This is an SE for personal finance not politics or government policy per the faq.
    – user4127
    Jan 12, 2012 at 16:39
  • 1
    Medicare is an entitlement, as are safety net programs. All citizens are eligible, and residents are eligible for many programs as well. Jan 12, 2012 at 18:10

1 Answer 1


"Social Security" is a somewhat vague term and not well defined. I think it likely that your friend's parents are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Refer also to the Social Security Administration's SSI home page.

SSI is indeed payable to all U.S. residents (not citizens) who meet the requirements. You appear to be confusing this scheme with Retirement Insurance Benefits (RIB), which are higher and require you to have been working in jobs that paid payroll taxes.

So to answer your questions:

  1. $900 per month sounds plausible for a couple receiving SSI.
  2. Depends on what you consider to be Social Security -- if you include non-contributory benefits, then yes, you can receive such benefits without having made Social Security contributions.
  3. Read the link on SSI for eligibility, but yes, most U.S. residents aged over 65 who aren't eligible for RIB will be eligible for SSI. It's funded through the federal budget.
  • I should have been clear about 4: these are parents of people pulling in well over $80k/yr after taxes. They can and do support their parents completely. The $900 could have gone elsewhere for better causes or to more deserving people. Jan 12, 2012 at 7:08
  • 6
    US culture does not expect children to support their parents financially, and so benefit levels are not reduced for people with well-off children.
    – Mike Scott
    Jan 12, 2012 at 7:17

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