Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Colorado’s eligibility crackdown on Old Age Pension exempts refugees & other hardship cases

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 10, 2011

Colorado’s eligibility crackdown on its Old Age Pension will not effect elderly refugees. Formerly, immigrants living in Colorado could sponsor their elderly parents as immigrants by telling the federal government they would take care of their relatives, but then sign up their family members for the Old Age Pension. Now, there is a five-year residency requirement, putting the state in line with federal benefits law. The new law also allows exceptions for hardship cases, such as elderly immigrants who are refugees. An article in the Denver Post has more:

For years, Colorado was known as a place with a unique legal loophole that allowed people to import their elderly immigrant relatives — family members they’d already promised to provide for — and immediately make taxpayers support them…

…The Old Age Pension program provides more than 23,000 low-income Colorado residents who are at least 60 years old with cash benefits of up to $699 per month…

…Voters added the Old Age Pension program to the state constitution in 1936. Originally, recipients had to have lived in Colorado for 35 years before getting the pension, but courts struck down the requirement as well as another requiring recipients to be U.S. citizens, meaning lawful permanent residents are eligible.

However, a remaining provision of the constitutional amendment says that the income of the family of the recipient can’t be considered in determining eligibility for the program. That’s despite the fact that under federal law, a person who sponsors an immigrant must sign a form pledging to be responsible for the immigrant…

…State officials and caseworkers say the frequent result was that people living in Colorado sponsored their elderly parents as immigrants, telling the federal government they take care of their relatives but then signing up their family members for the Old Age Pension.

With the five-year residency requirement, the program became aligned with federal law, which imposes the same waiting period to receive federal benefits…

The new law does allow some exceptions for hardship cases, such as those elderly immigrants who are refugees or who are abandoned by their sponsors… Read more here

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