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Unauthorized Work And Social Security, Medicaid

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PHOENIX -- I've been doing some reporting lately on the phenomenon of unauthorized immigrants who use Social Security Numbers that don't belong to them, or made-up numbers, in order to get work.

My most recent story on the topic focused on the criminal penalties that go along with this activity, which can lead to identity theft and forgery charges.

Last week, the publication The Medicare Newsgroup looked at the issue from a much different angle, and got some pertinent data from the Social Security Administration.

As explained in the article, even if an employee's Social Security Number isn't valid, their payroll taxes still go toward the Social Security Administration and the Medicare trust fund.

The Social Security Administration has a designated "earning suspense file" where it places records that have a mismatch between employee's W-2s and Social Security Numbers. Experts quoted in the past have suggested a significant, or even a majority, of the records in the suspense file pertain to undocumented immigrants.

According to the Medicare Newsgroup article:

In 2010, the last year for which figures are available, employers reported wages of $70.3 billion from 7.3 million workers whose records were placed in the earnings suspense file, according to data provided by the SSA to The Medicare NewsGroup. These payroll taxes, however, go straight to their respective trust funds. This amounts to about $2 billion for Medicare and $8.7 billion for Social Security in 2010.

Jude Joffe-Block was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2010 to 2017.