Stimulus Checks Are Automatic, Unless You’re On SSI by Michelle Diament | April 10, 2020
Millions of Americans with disabilities are needlessly at risk of missing out on economic stimulus payments they’re entitled to, advocates and lawmakers say.
Under the federal stimulus law approved in March, most individuals making less than $75,000 annually will receive $1,200 cash payments from the government starting next week. Those earning up to $99,000 will get a tiered amount.
Generally speaking, people will get the payments automatically if they filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return or if they receive Form SSA-1099 for Social Security benefits, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
But that’s not the case for people receiving Supplemental Security Income as well as some veterans’ benefits who have been told that they would need to file tax returns in order to access the money.
On Friday, however, the IRS introduced a new tool on its website to allow SSI beneficiaries and other non-filers a quick way to register for the stimulus payments without filing a tax return.
“The IRS continues to explore ways to see if Economic Impact Payments can be made automatically to SSI recipients and those who receive veterans disability compensation, pension or survivor benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and who did not file a tax return for the 2018 or 2019 tax years,” the IRS indicated. “People in these groups can either use Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info option now or wait as the IRS continues to review automatic payment options to simplify delivery for these groups.”
More than 200 disability advocacy groups have been urging the U.S. Department of Treasury to work with the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs to alleviate the need for tax returns to be filed.
“Forcing millions of low-income senior citizens and people with disabilities, many of them veterans, to file tax returns when they are not otherwise required to do so will delay access to their recovery rebates and place a huge burden on the providers of disability and low-income tax preparation services,” the advocates wrote in a joint letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie this month.
The advocates said that in 2008, Social Security, SSI and other beneficiaries were similarly required to file a tax return to access economic stimulus funds. As a result, nearly 1 in 5 missed out on the extra money.
“We want everyone to have access to their recovery rebate and we urge you to create a workable and simple system to distribute the rebates without requiring individuals on SSI or VA Disability Compensation or Veterans Pension benefits to file tax returns,” reads the advocates’ letter. “Otherwise, millions of people may not receive the recovery rebate to which they have a legal right, and will be unable to use it to meet important needs and stimulate the local and national economies.”
Beyond the disability advocacy groups, at least 46 senators and 120 members of the House of Representatives have also written to the Treasury Department to ask the agency to forgo its tax return requirement for those receiving SSI.
Bethany Lilly, director of income policy at The Arc, said that it’s especially burdensome for people with disabilities who rely on SSI to have to file a tax return now since many free tax filing services are not operating because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She worries that people who are already at high risk for coronavirus may put themselves in danger by going to a library or other public place in order to access a computer to file a tax return so that they can get the stimulus payment.
“They’re sending these folks checks every month so I don’t know what additional info they would need,” Lilly said. “The point of this is to get cash into people’s hands as quickly as possible.”
A Treasury Department spokeswoman said that the agency is “working on this.”
Meanwhile, the Social Security Administration indicated that it’s in talks with Treasury in an effort to address questions related to SSI beneficiaries and “make the issuance of economic impact payments as quick and efficient as possible.” Social Security did confirm, however, that any money received through the cash payments will not be considered income and will not count as resources for 12 months.