"he tore up his social security card"......tearing up your card doesn't suddenly make you disappear off the books......it simply means you now have no card. If a card had been issued, there is a file on that person.
If income is not reported to the IRS by employers, you don't exist to them, and they don't report wages/earnings to SS.
I have owned remote property in 3 of Arizonas more rural counties..........and I can affirm that there are MANY people living this way, most by choice....and most are happy.
I have known people that have had kids that "don't exist"......think about it.....
Birth at home, no SS#.
Home schooled, no enrollment records.
Don't ask for assistance, none given......and in fact many rural counties are hurting so bad, they will gladly "overlook" the 'folks' living this way as long as no one makes a stink.