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As Covid-19 stimulus checks rolled out to millions of Americans, the government reassured Social Security and Supplemental Security Income recipients that they would be eligible for payments.
But some beneficiaries, including retired and disabled Americans, may have gotten more than they bargained for – lost benefits.
Some SSI recipients have had their benefits suspended or faced overpayments of up to $3,200 per individual or $6,400 per married couple due to stimulus checks three rounds of payments. Social Security recipients have also reportedly received notices of overpayments.
Those reports prompted three Democratic leaders — Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; and Bob Casey, D-Pa. – To send a letter They contacted the Social Security Administration last week and said they were “deeply concerned.”
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) offers advantages to adults and children with disabilities and the blind, as well as to older people aged 65 and over with low income or resources.
The amount of monthly payout beneficiaries receive depends on their income, living circumstances, assets and other factors. Beneficiaries must report their income and wages every month, as well as any changes in their resources or living circumstances.
This oversight is intended to ensure that beneficiaries continue to meet SSI’s strict rules. This includes in particular a Maximum of $2,000 in assets of any kind per individual beneficiary or $3,000 for married couples or two-parent families with children who are SSI beneficiaries.
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SSI beneficiaries typically have few resources and limited income and are therefore likely to qualify for the full stimulus payments. But the low asset limits mean these payments may have created complications.
The Social Security Administration announced in 2021 that the stimulus checks would not count toward eligibility and payment of SSI benefits indefinitely.
Suspensions of benefits have “significant negative impacts”
“SSI benefits, while modest, have a significant impact on the lives of the people who rely on them,” the senators wrote to Kilolo Kijakazi, acting commissioner of the Social Security Administration. “Benefit suspensions and overpayment notices – regardless of the cause – can have a profound negative impact on their lives.”
“Furthermore, loss of SSI eligibility risks a lengthy bureaucratic process to restore eligibility and also jeopardizes beneficiaries’ access to Medicaid coverage,” the senators wrote.
Lawmakers call on the Social Security Administration to provide more information on the number of beneficiaries whose benefits were reduced or suspended between March 2020 and July 2021; August 2021 and December 2022; and January 2023 to September 2023.
In addition, officials want to find out how many of these people had their benefits reinstated without an appeal hearing; How many were reinstated as a result of an appeal hearing? the number of appeals rejected; and the number of appeals still pending.
Among other things, senators want to find out the number of applicants who were denied SSI benefits because of the stimulus checks.
This is especially true for Brown and other lawmakers Work on a bipartisan bill to update SSI asset limits.
The mistakes are no surprise to Darcy Milburn, director of social security and health policy at The Arc, an advocacy group for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The group I heard about this topic “quite frequently” during the peak of the pandemic.
“It’s honestly kind of stalled now,” Milburn said. “But some people are still struggling.”
One reason is that it can be challenging for the Social Security Administration to communicate guidance down to the local level, she said.
According to Milburn, there are 7.6 million people receiving SSI, and each of those people’s assets are very frequently audited by the Social Security Administration.
“If any of these SSI beneficiaries had assets above the $2,000 limit at any time, it would have been reported internally,” Milburn said.
The general advice for situations involving overpaid Social Security benefits, Milburn said, is to report changes in income and assets to the Social Security Administration as quickly as possible.
In particular, the disability community has worked very hard to communicate that the stimulus payments should not be counted against the income or assets of SSI beneficiaries, she said.
“If you receive a notice of an overpayment from the Social Security Administration and believe it was due to a Covid stimulus payment or another error by the Social Security Administration, you should appeal,” Milburn said.
Social Security Administration spokeswoman Nicole Tiggemann confirmed this to CNBC On Monday, the agency said it had received the senators’ letter and planned to respond directly.
The agency has also directed its employees to inquire about receipt of stimulus checks, officially called economic impact payments, including how much was received, how much was saved and where, Tiggemann said. Social Security Administration employees were instructed to deduct the saved amounts from a beneficiary’s financial account balance until they reported that they had fully spent the funds.
In addition, the Social Security Administration provided information about the stimulus checks on websites, blogs, social media, and emails to SSI beneficiaries my social security Accounts, letters to attorneys and mailed notices to people who received or were eligible for SSI in 2020 and 2021, Tiggemann said.
“We have recorded information that [economic impact payments] are not counted as income when received and do not count toward the resource limits of SSI applicants or recipients, regardless of how long they retain these funds,” Tiggemann said.