Is It True That Only 2/3rds Of A Person's Foreign Pension Counts As Income In Calculating SSI Payments?

Dec 9 2016 - 9:30pm

Dear Larry,

Thank you for this opportunity to consult you on a "life-and-death" crisis in my poor, aging father's case.
It is crucial to him that this question be answered ASAP:
Is it true that one of SSA laws/rules allows an SSI applicant's foreign pension to be calculated at two thirds of its total when his SSI payment amount is being determined?
If there has been such a law/rule, where can this law/rule be viewed? What number is it?
If the policy of calculating only two thirds of his foreign pension is located among the thousands of rules and immediately applied, then my father has been reporting the amount of his slowly growing foreign pension correctly.
The local SSA office reviews and redetermines my father’s SSI payment on Dec. 19, 2016. My father hopes to have his meager SSI payment continued instead of being stopped.
Please let me explain why the answer to this question is so important:
My father (now aged 84), a former Chinese national (who retired in 1992 in China at age 60) and a US citizen (since 2010), reported his pension (RMB 2562 @ 6.5 exchange rate = $390) from China when he applied for SSI in Oct. 2010. SSA deducted the f u l l amount of his foreign pension ($390-20) and granted him the difference as payment (from ca. $343.60 in Nov. 2010 to ca. $515 in Nov. 2016).
My father's foreign pension has been deposited directly to a retirement account with Bank of China since the day it was opened by his former Chinese employer in Hefei in July 2012.
The bank card was not handed to my father when he accompanied my mother to Shanghai (and stayed there for a month from July to August 2012) to seek help in Chinese herbal medicine for her pancreatic cancer. With the approval of my father’s former employer, Bank of China entrusted the pension-access card to my younger sister (who was still working in China at that time).
My father has not returned to China since August 2012. He has not seen any transaction history, assuming only that his 2562 yuan + some adjustment (against the rising cost of living) was being deposited in his account each month.
My father would not have had any access to this money if my younger sister and I had not helped to get it for him while we were in China. Teaching in China as a foreign expert between 2013 and 2016, I withdrew cash from his account (using his bank card and pin), bought US dollars with my passport as ID and tax payment proof for permission to purchase foreign currency, and brought it back to him twice a year to cover his living expenses.
I was doing my father--and SSA--a favor by obtaining his pension and exchanging it into US currency so that he could live and not die of hunger. I now live permanently in the U.S. and cannot help my father this way any more.
My father now faces a “life-or-death” dilemma: The local SSA officer who interviewed him on Nov. 18, 2016 demanded that an official bank statement of nearly three years' transaction history of his bank account and an official record/registrar of pension payment by his former employer be obtained from China and submitted to his office before Dec. 19, 2016.
However, Bank of China, like all other Chinese banks, refuses to reveal or print out anyone’s bank transaction history without the account holder being present in person.
It is impossible for my father to get the above two documents because he cannot travel any more and cannot appear in person to request them.
Nor does he trust anyone (except my sister and me, both living in the U.S.) with his bank card and pin number to act as power of attorney on his behalf, given such rampant practice of fraud in China these years.
So, dear sir, please advise us as to how my father can resolve this difficulty with the SSA officer. You must have rich experience in suggesting appropriate rules and offering fair treatment to SSI applicants.
Thank you ever so much! I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience. Sorry to have taken so much of your precious time. Your attention to this emergency and timely response is profoundly appreciated.
Gratefully yours,


Hi W,

I'm very sorry to hear of your father's health problems, and sorry that I don't have any good news to offer you.

There is no truth to the rumor that you've apparently heard or read about only 2/3rds of a person's foreign pension counting in the calculation of their Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. In fact, if an SSI recipient receives any kind of a pension, foreign or otherwise, the full amount is counted in reducing their SSI payment amount.

SSI is a needs based program intended as a means of income of last resort for those unable to support themselves due to disability, blindness or old age ( Although Social Security administers the SSI program, SSI payments are funded by general income tax revenues, not Social Security taxes.

Since SSI is needs based, Social Security is required to verify the amount of any income and/or resources that a potential recipient has in order to confirm that they meet the eligibility requirements. I'm sorry, but I don't know of any documents other than bank statements that would verify the amount of funds in your father's bank account(s). Hopefully, you can convince him to cooperate in obtaining the documentation required to keep his SSI payments coming.

Best, Jerry