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When Covid-19 stimulus checks were administered to millions of Americans, the government assured Social Security and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries that they were eligible to receive payments.
But some beneficiaries, including retired and disabled Americans, may have gotten more than they bargained for: lost benefits.
Some SSI recipients have been assessed as having their benefits suspended or being overpaid as a result of stimulus checks by up to $3,200 per individual or $6,400 per married couple. three rounds of payment. Social Security beneficiaries also reportedly received overpayment notices.
Those reports spurred action from three Democratic leaders — Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; and Bob Casey, D-Pa. -with send a letter They applied to the Social Security Institution last week, stating that they were “deeply concerned”.
Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, provides benefits It is aimed at disabled and blind adults and children, as well as older individuals aged 65 and over who have few income or resources.
The size of the monthly payment that beneficiaries receive depends on their income, living conditions, assets and other factors. Each month, beneficiaries must report their income and wages, as well as any changes in their resources or living arrangements.
The purpose of this oversight is to ensure that beneficiaries continue to qualify according to SSI’s strict rules. Notably, this includes: $2,000 limit on any assets $3,000 per individual beneficiary or 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 not eligible for full stimulus payments. However, low asset limits mean that these payments may have caused problems.
The Social Security Administration announced in 2021 that stimulus checks will not be included in SSI benefit eligibility and payments indefinitely.
Aid suspension has ‘profound negative impact’
“SSI benefits, although 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. “Regardless of the reason, benefit suspensions and overpayment notices can have a profound negative impact on their lives.”
“Additionally, losing SSI eligibility risks a lengthy bureaucratic process to restore eligibility and also compromises beneficiaries’ access to Medicaid coverage,” the senators wrote. he wrote.
Lawmakers are asking the Social Security Administration to provide more information about the number of beneficiaries whose benefits were reduced or suspended between March 2020 and July 2021; August 2021 and December 2022; and from January 2023 to September 2023.
Additionally, leaders are trying to find out how many of these people have seen their benefits revoked without an appeal hearing; how many people were reinstated due to appeal hearings; number of rejected objections; and the number of appeals currently pending.
Senators are also trying to find out the number of claimants who were denied SSI benefits because of the stimulus checks, among other details.
Brown and other legislators in particular He is working on a bipartisan bill to update Social Security’s asset limits.
The errors are no surprise to Darcy Milburn, director of Social Security and health care policy for The Arc, an advocacy organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Group he heard about it “quite often” during the height of the epidemic.
“It’s actually kind of diminished right now,” Milburn said. “But some people still have problems.”
One reason is that it can be difficult for the Social Security Administration to communicate guidance down to the local level, he said.
According to Milburn, there are 7.6 million people in SSI, and the assets of each of these people are checked very frequently by the Social Security Institution.
“If at any time a SSI beneficiary had assets over the $2,000 limit, that would be flagged internally,” Milburn said.
According to Milburn, the general advice for situations with overpaid Social Security benefits is to submit income and asset changes to the Social Security Administration as soon as possible.
He said the disability community in particular has worked hard to communicate that stimulus payments should not be deducted from SSI beneficiaries’ income or assets.
“If you receive an overpayment notice from the Social Security Administration and you believe it was due to a Covid stimulus payment or other error by the Social Security Administration, you should file an appeal,” Milburn said.
Social Security Administration agent Nicole Tiggemann confirmed to CNBC On Monday, the agency said it had received the senators’ letter and planned to respond to them directly.
Tiggemann said the agency is also instructing employees to ask questions about whether stimulus checks, formally called economic impact payments, have been received, how much has been received, how much has been saved and where it is located. Social Security Administration employees are instructed to deduct the saved amounts from the beneficiary’s financial account balance until they report that the funds have been fully spent.
Additionally, the Social Security Administration provided information about stimulus checks to SSI beneficiaries through web pages, blogs, social media and emails. My Social Security Tiggemann said accounts, letters to attorneys and notices were sent by mail to people who received or are eligible to receive SSI in 2020 and 2021.
“We added the following information: [economic impact payments] “These funds do not count as income when received and will not count against SSI applicants or recipients’ resource limits no matter how long they hold the funds,” Tiggemann said.