Social Security Disability Benefits for Native Americans and Alaskan Natives

A few special rules apply to Social Security and Medicaid for Alaskan Natives and Native American Indians.

By , Contributing Author
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Social Security disability and SSI benefits are available to all eligible people regardless of their race or ethnicity. However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has developed some resources and benefits specifically directed at serving the American Indian and Alaskan Native population.

SSI Income and Resource Exclusions for Native Americans and Alaskan Natives

SSI, which stands for Supplemental Security Income, is available only to disabled or elderly individuals who meet the SSA's income and resource limits. The SSA will count income from earned sources (like working) and unearned sources (like interest payments from investments). Resources are things stocks, bank accounts, or land. Although there are some income and resources exclusions available to everyone, there are also certain exclusions that are available only to American Indians or Alaskan Natives.

Exclusions for American Indians or Alaskan Natives

If you have received income or resources from the following sources, they may not be counted towards your income for SSI eligibility purposes:

  • Indian Judgment Funds Distribution Act — Public Law (P.L.) 93-134
  • Distribution of Indian Judgment Funds
  • Per Capita Act
  • Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), and
  • Payments From Individual Interests in Trust or Restricted Lands.

However, there are specific rules and requirements that must be met for you to be entitled to the exclusions under these programs. You can read about them on the Indian-Related Exclusions page on the SSA's website.

Note that Social Security does count the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) that all Alaskans receive each October when determining continuing eligibility for SSI benefits.

Specific Tribes and Nations

Here is a list of the tribes or groups that may be eligible for the income or resource exclusions discussed above:

  • Sac and Fox Indian Nation
  • Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians
  • Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakima Indian Nation
  • Aleutian and Pribilof Island
  • Apache Tribe of the Mescalero Reservation
  • Pueblo of Santa Ana
  • Pueblo of Zia
  • Delaware Tribe of Indians
  • Delaware Tribe of Western Oklahoma
  • Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Penobscot Nation
  • Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians
  • San Carlos Tribe of Arizona
  • Wyandot Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma
  • Shawnee Tribe of Indians
  • Miami Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Miami Indians of Indiana
  • Clallam Tribe of Indians of the State of Washington
  • Pembina Chippewa Indians (Turtle Mountain Band, Chippewa Cree Tribe, Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, and Little Shell Band of Chippewa Indians of Montana)
  • Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes of Fort Belknap Indian Community
  • Papago Tribe of Arizona
  • Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation
  • Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians
  • Assiniboine Tribe of the Fort Belknap Indian Community of Montana and the Assiniboine Tribe of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation of Montana
  • Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe
  • Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Absentee Wyandottes
  • Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska
  • Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe
  • Prairie Island Sioux
  • Lower Sioux
  • Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Communities of Minnesota
  • Chippewas of Lake Superior
  • Chippewas of the Mississippi
  • White Earth Band of Chippewa Indians
  • Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan
  • Chippewas of Lake Superior and the Chippewas of the Mississippi
  • Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians
  • Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana
  • Hoopa Valley Indian Tribe
  • Yurok Indian Tribe
  • Wisconsin Band of Potawatomi (Hannahville Indian Community and Forest County Potawatomi)
  • Puyallup Tribe
  • Seminole Nation of Oklahoma
  • Seminole Tribe of Florida
  • Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida,
  • independent Seminole Indians of Florida
  • Seneca Nation
  • Fallon Paiute Shoshone Indian
  • Catawba Indian, and
  • Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

If you don't see your tribe or group, contact the SSA.

Additional Possible Income Exclusions

Your income from the following sources may also be excluded from your income when calculating your SSI eligibility.

To learn about the specific requirements for these exclusions click on the links above.

SSI Amounts in Alaska

SSI amounts are determined by finding the difference between the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) and your countable income (income minus the deductions discussed above). Alaska also provide a supplement to SSI recipients, so if you qualify for SSI and are a resident of Alaska, you can receive a state supplement in addition to the federal amount. The amount you receive depends on your living situation. As of 2011, you can get a state supplement in the amount of $362 if you live independently in Alaska. If you live in someone else's house, you can get an additional $368. If you live in an assisted living facility, you can get an additional $100 in state money. If you live in a Medicaid facility, you can get $45 additional in a state supplement each month.

Social Security Services for Native Americans and Alaska Natives

The SSA has developed some Internet pages to serve the unique needs of American Indian and Alaskan Natives, called the AINA website.

In addition, some tribal social services offices work with the SSA to have its employees make scheduled visits to the tribal social services office. In this case, you may be able to apply for Social Security disability or SSI at your tribal social services office during a scheduled time. Call your tribal social services office to see if this option is available.

Medicare and Medicaid for American Indians and Alaskan Natives

CMS Tribal Affairs is part of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a federal agency, and works with American Indian and Alaskan Native tribes to provide healthcare access to members of tribal groups eligible for Medicaid or Medicare.

If you are approved for SSI, you may be eligible for Medicaid immediately. If you are approved for Social Security Disability (SSDI), you will be eligible for Medicare after a two-year waiting period.

Eligibility for Alaska Residents for Medicare and Medicaid

Due to the high cost of living, Alaska has its own poverty guidelines, which determine when a resident of Alaska is eligible for federal services such as Medicaid, Medicare subsidies, and subsidies for health plans purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Note that Alaska has voted not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Applying for Medicaid

Most states automatically enroll SSI recipients into the Medicare program, but not all. The following states require a separate application, though their eligibility requirements are the same as the federal government:

  • Alaska
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • Oregon, and
  • Utah.

State-Specific Eligibility for Medicaid

The majority of the states follow the federal government rules for eligibility for Medicaid. However, the following states have requirements for Medicaid that vary from the federal government's criteria (and they require a separate application):

  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma, and
  • Virginia.

For more information, visit Medicaid's state-by-state page.

Social Security Dependents Benefits

Native Americans' and Alaskans' spouses, including same-sex spouses, are also eligible for Social Security benefits. See our section on dependents benefits for more information.

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