General, Medicare, Retirement

Social Security Is Important to Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders

February 8, 2016 • By

Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Last Updated: May 11, 2023

Photograph of Christopher Kang, National Director, National Council of Asian Pacific AmericansHappy Year of the Monkey! The Lunar New Year is another opportunity for us to make New Year’s resolutions. For many Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, having a better understanding of Social Security should be on their list of things to do.

I had to learn about many of Social Security’s programs very quickly a few years ago, when my dad passed away. I found myself immersed in the world of survivor benefits, pensions, and overall income security for my mom. I learned that my parents were fortunate — Social Security was one source of their income, but not their only one.

Statistics show that a large percentage of elderly Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders rely on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their income. This important detail reminds us that Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders need to invest for a better financial future.

Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders are one the fastest-growing ethnic groups in America. They are also one of the fastest-growing populations of older adults. According to the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging, U.S. Census data estimates that nearly 1.6 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are age 65 and older. This number is projected to grow to 7.3 million by 2060.

The needs of the aging Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community are unique. Approximately 85 percent of Asian Americans aged 65 and older are foreign-born and this diverse population speaks more than 100 languages and dialects. Furthermore, 60 percent of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders over age 65 have limited English proficiency. Thirty-one percent live in a linguistically isolated household, meaning those in the household speak English “less than very well.”

Helping a community with such diverse language and cultural backgrounds prepare for retirement requires that the services be culturally competent and linguistically accessible. Social Security provides essential resources for the diverse needs of this population, including information in Chinese, Hmong, Korean, Tagalog and Vietnamese, and the opportunity to access an interpreter by contacting Social Security at the toll-free number: 1-800-772-1213. Telephone interpreter services for people with limited English proficiency are available at free of charge.

Although Social Security provides many in-language resources, too many Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders don’t know about them. These groups are often stereotyped as “model minorities” not requiring public assistance services. The reality is that people in this group were among those hardest hit by the recession. Data from the 2010 Census shows that many Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander sub-groups have a higher rate of poverty among the elderly than the national average, including one sub-group of which most of its elderly lives below the federal poverty level. Despite this, the stereotype label may make some people in these communities reluctant to reach out for assistance.

Social Security is a lifeline for many in these communities that not only functions as a retirement program, but also provides protection through disability insurance and financial support for families with children.

While many of us celebrate the Lunar New Year with our families, we need to spread the word about how Social Security benefits our community and us. Whether it is for our parents, our grandparents, or ourselves, it is important to understand how Social Security is important to Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders.

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  1. Brad L.

    Easy work from home for all.

  2. Daniel L.

    What happen to the money that the Government took from the SSA in the 70s& late 80sor 90s

  3. Kevin s.

    What incomes are counted for income when applying for extra help for Medicare. And does count workers compensiation count or even if it is paid by worker with post tax money from employers pay check. I get different answers from diferent agencys. Thank you

    • Luis A.

      Hi Kevin. Thanks for your question. For more information about income and resource limits for Extra Help, check out our publication, “Understanding the Extra Help With Your Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.” For specific questions about your situation, please call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., from Monday through Friday. You will generally have a shorter wait time if you call later in the week. You may also wish to contact your local Medicare SHIP (State Health Insurance Program Coordinator) for additional assistance. We hope this helps

  4. saba

    Very interesting post.this is my first time visit here. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion..thanks for the post! click here

  5. M

    I wish that you were director of it all.

    I am not Asian American, but I applied. It shows it online. There is a letter to go with it. I answered the security questions after I encountered an error, but nevertheless I did set it up. For two months the enrollment has been stuck on step 2 of 3.

    She told me there was an error and that I should come in. She told me that I never applied, but that is false. Yes I did. Then I told her that I answered the questions and there’s a letter. She then says she didn’t see that and insists I need to prove myself all over again.

    I am a senior, I already did this. Is this what the medical care is going to be like? Every day I checked the mail, still no card, and the site just was stuck on step 2. It’s been over 2 months, and it’s still stuck. They’re not finishing it. Since I applied there will be no fine, but now I have to turn down all health care because it can clean everyone out.

    Why are they abusing seniors like this? Why are they wasting tax dollars and trying to make me do it all over again? I am worn out. I wish someone would just finish it. I did my part. They have what they need. Just posting here because I noticed you listen. Thank you.

  6. Karen F.

    I have a question when we heard on the news about a month ago we all would all be getting about 38.00 more in 2019 added to our Social Security and then about a month later our land lord of the property i live in i pay lot rent i own the home it in a 55 park and they sent us a letter saying they where going to charge us $ 25.00 so what good is it for getting a small raise when they take it from us their should be a law to where they are not about to do it in my case it going to force me out of my home what can we do ?

  7. Teresita

    I worked since I was 16 years old but, at that time there was no Social Security where I came from just till recently . According to the Social Security office here where I resign not enough points so am 71 years old still working yes am receiving my spouse Social Security which am getting more by $300.00 more than my Social Security. I have put in 10 years now with my job my question is can I collect my own Social Security Benefits?

    • Ray F.

      Thank you for your question, Teresita. You can request that we review your records. To find out if you are eligible for a higher benefit and to discuss your options, contact us at 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday or visit your local Social security office. Thanks!

  8. Pick U.

    I enjoy what you guys are usually up too. This sort of clever work and reporting! Keep up the good works.

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