As part of its work with the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) and allies of CCD, ANCOR joined a letter bringing attention to an oversight in the implementation of a provision of the CARES Act that will send $1,200 in stimulus funds to eligible individuals during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Internal Revenue Service, which is responsible for the distribution of the checks, has stated individuals who have filed tax returns in the past would automatically receive the checks, as would individuals enrolled for Social Security Administration (SSA) benefits. However, as the coalition letter explains, this leaves individuals receiving Social Security Income (SSI) and Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits out of automatic enrollment.
“We appreciate recent statements from the Internal Revenue Service that suggest that Social Security beneficiaries will receive their payments automatically based on the SSA-1099 form. Since Congress included a reference to the SSA-1099 form, it is clearly Congressional intent that those forms be utilized, along with other data that SSA and Treasury already possess, to issue Recovery Rebates automatically. We would urge the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the IRS to comply with Congressional intent as quickly as possible.
However, people receiving SSI or VA Disability Compensation and Veterans Pension benefits do not receive a SSA-1099 or similar form because their benefits are not taxable. These individuals will not be automatically issued a rebate. Like Social Security and Railroad Retirement beneficiaries, they need additional action by Treasury, SSA, and the VA, to ensure that they will not need to file tax returns to access their Recovery Rebates. 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. Given previous failures to reach this population in 2008 when tax filing was required, it is crucial that the IRS, SSA, and VA not repeat the mistakes of the past.
As Former IRS Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson said, when testifying about how hard it was to reach Social Security, SSI, and VA Disability Compensation and Veterans Pension beneficiaries in 2008, ‘there are major challenges to achieving a significant participation rate,’ including lack of internet access, physical and electronic accessibility issues, and legally required reasonable accommodations and assistance for people with disabilities in understanding the tax filing process.1 In fact, in 2008, 17 percent of eligible individuals did not file tax returns and did not claim their stimulus checks.2 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. 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.”
At the time of this writing, the Social Security Administration acknowledged the challenge pose to SSI recipients and stated that it is working to resolve them, also noting that it “will not consider economic impact payments as income for SSI recipients, and the payments are excluded from resources for 12 months.”