Confusion in sending post-delayed social security cards for Afghan refugees

Barbara Davidson

Members of the United States military and Afghan refugees play soccer at Fort McCoy U.S. Army Base in Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, on Thursday, September 30, 2021. The fortress is one of eight military installations across the country that will temporarily house the tens of thousands of Afghans who had to flee their homelands in August after the US withdrew its troops from Afghanistan and the Taliban took control.

MADISON, Erase. Logistical mailing problems have resulted in social security cards for Afghan refugees being delayed across the country, with organizations unable to send cards to people because they have the same names as other refugees or have left military bases, a spokesperson for the U.S. Social Security Administration says security.

None of the 36 Afghan refugees currently resettled to Madison since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August have not yet received their cards, according to Jewish Social Services, the refugee resettlement in Madison.

“It’s a federal issue, and until the Social Security Administration finds out, it won’t help our customers,” said Dawn Berney, executive director of JSS.

While refugees in Madison have been able to get temporary 30-day food stamps, they can’t access temporary income or their regular food stamps without Social Security cards. Refugees with a Social Security number have access to temporary income benefits, such as Wisconsin Works (W-2) or refugee assistance programs that typically last eight to nine months.

“They need their Social Security card to file the paperwork,” Berney explained. “So they have no income at all and that is a problem.”

Email confusion leads to card delays

Weeks ago, News 3 Investigates asked the US Social Security Administration for additional information about why Afghan refugees were experiencing delays in getting their Social Security cards.

This week, a spokesperson for the SSA Chicago regional office told News 3 Investigates that the agency had “recently” learned of logistical issues affecting the delivery of maps to Afghan refugees, involving the Department of Homeland Security and an outside nun. for-profit organization, the International Organization of Migration.

“For example, we’ve heard that some people have very similar or common names, and others have moved from military bases,” Doug Nguyen, the SSA’s director of regional communications, said in an email.

In addition, some paperwork was sent to military bases after Afghan refugees had already left the base, Berney told News 3 Investigates.

“I know one of the problems is that some paperwork is sent to the army bases where families are no longer there, so whether it’s Fort McCoy or Fort Bliss or Fort Lee, they’re just not there to receive the paperwork that comes in . That doesn’t help,” Berney said.

The SSA had worked with DHS and IOM to send cards to a central address, from which point the IOM had trouble getting the cards to their final destination.

RELATED: Medical Care Concerns, Anxious to Leave: The Condition of an Afghan Journalist in Fort McCoy

“While we have successfully issued SSN cards for these individuals through EBE, the IOM has been unable to get the cards to all of them,” Nguyen said.

Feds hope custom identification will solve the problem

The SSA is now addressing the issues by re-issuing SSN cards to refugees, this time with an automated unique identifier on the mailing envelope address line associated with the refugee’s application.

The idea is that the identification will help IOM then get the cards to the correct refugee, using their current address and returning cards to the SSA that are not available for delivery.

“I think that will help reduce it a little bit,” Berney said when she heard of the solution.

The mix-ups affected refugees who currently hold special immigrant visas and have applied for a Social Security card through the Enumeration Beyond Entry process, Nguyen said. The SIV is a specialized federal visa program for Afghan and Iraqi individuals who have worked for the United States federal government and provided support and services to troops and other federal government employees.

RELATED: An Affordable Housing Crisis: Afghan Refugees in Madison

Nguyen did not say how many refugees were affected or provide specifics on the number of cards that had been delayed due to the confusion in the mailing. He also didn’t specifically say whether cards had been sent to the wrong people or were lost due to the mix-ups.

Other issues have contributed to delays, Berney previously explained to News 3 Now, including pandemic changes to the application process. Previously, refugees could get an appointment and receive a card within 24 hours, Berney said. Now virtual methods have stretched the process longer.

Meanwhile, refugees with temporary food coupons could again be dependent on grocery store gift cards if the problem isn’t resolved quickly.

“If their cards don’t go through the next month, they lose it and have to go through the whole process again,” Berney said.

RELATED: At Fort McCoy, Team Rubicon Would Retire; Officials say all Afghan refugees now have ‘winter layers’


Looking for ways to help refugees in Madison?

  • Donate cash, basic groceries or Amazon gift cards to Jewish Social Services or Open doors for refugees
  • JSS is also currently looking for volunteers to help refugees move into apartments, especially volunteers who can help with heavier items such as furniture


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