Stimulus Funds May Have Compromised Social Security and SSI Benefits for Some Recipients — Here’s How and What’s Being Done Now

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Beneficiaries of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may have received overpayment notices or experienced reduced benefits after receiving funds from three rounds of stimulus checks during the COVID-19 pandemic, CNBC recently reported.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) wrote a letter to the Social Security Administration’s acting commissioner, Dr. Kilolo Kijakazi, on Oct. 20, according to a news release on the United States Senate Committee on Finance website.

We are deeply concerned that [SSI] beneficiaries are receiving overpayment notices in error, because SSA is not following its own determination to exclude EIPs [stimulus checks] from countable resources,” the letter said.

SSI recipients, who include disabled or blind adults and children as well as adults age 65 or older with little income or resources, have a strict asset limit of $2,000 per individual — $3,000 for married couples or two-parent families with children who receive SSI.

Although the economic impact payments, which equaled as much as $3,200 for individuals and $6,400 for married couples, were not supposed to count toward assets for SSI recipients, in some cases they did.

Darcy Milburn, director of Social Security and health-care policy at The Arc, an advocacy organization, told CNBC that the mistakes were more common at the height of the pandemic. But since local offices of the SSA continue to review assets for SSI recipients, it’s possible that policies weren’t communicated at that level.

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“If at any point in time, one of those SSI beneficiaries had assets over the $2,000 limit, it would have been flagged internally,” Milburn said.

She advised that SSI recipients should always communicate income and asset changes to the SSA as quickly as possible. Likewise, take action as soon as possible if you believe you were shorted funds or received an overpayment notice in error.

“If you receive an overpayment notice from the Social Security Administration, and believe that it was due to a Covid stimulus payment or another error that was made by the Social Security Administration, you should file an appeal,” Milburn said.

In the meantime, lawmakers are trying to find out how many SSI and Social Security recipients saw their benefits reduced or suspended between March 2020 and September 2023. They are also trying to find out how many saw their benefits reinstated with or without an appeal, how many appeals were denied and how many appeals are still pending.

Additionally, CNBC reported, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) are working to have SSI asset limits raised in line with inflation for the first time in decades.

The SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act would increase asset limits to $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for couples. It would also effectively eliminate any issues caused by the reporting of pandemic-era stimulus funds.  

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