Stimulus checks, SSDI and SSI: Third payment eligibility, claiming missing money and more – CNET

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Good news for people in SSI and SSDI programs. Signs point to eligibility with a third stimulus check.


Angela Lang/CNET

Millions of Americans who participate in the federal government’s Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance programs are straddling the third stimulus check and the first two payments. Within weeks, a check for up to $1,400 for you and your dependents could arrive (here’s the potential stimulus check timeline). And if the government still owes you a payment, now’s the time to claim your missing stimulus money, even if you don’t usually file taxes.

On Friday, more details of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill emerged, and the Democrats who control the House and Senate are rushing to pass it by the end of next week. If the stimulus check portion of bill remains as is — and that may not be entirely the case — qualifications would include SSDI and SSI beneficiaries once again, but with some overall changes to the checks. If you started or stopped receiving SSI or SSDI in either 2019 or 2020, the timing of tax season this year could change how much money you get from a possible third check

If you never received all or part of your $1,200 first or $600 second payment — or if any payments for your eligible child dependents are missing — we’ll walk you through how to claim that money on your tax return right now, and why you want to file your tax return early rather than ask for an extension. We’ve also got answers to questions about stimulus checks, SSI and SSDI, including eligibility, how your third payment might arrive and what else to expect. This story was recently updated with new information.

I never got my first or second stimulus payment. What happened to it? 

According to the IRS, people who receive Social Security retirement, SSDI, SSI and Railroad Retirement benefits, as well as Veterans Affairs beneficiaries, were automatically eligible for the first two payments. With the first check, it’s possible you might have had a payment garnished for child support or to pay a specific kind of creditor, but the rules changed with a second check. However, an IRS error could also be one potential culprit.

How can I claim stimulus money that never arrived?

If you receive SSI or SSDI but still haven’t gotten a stimulus check from either round — and the first one, especially — the IRS may still need more information about your eligibility. 

To receive your money now, you’ll need to claim the additional amount as part of tax season 2020, using the Recovery Rebate Credit. Even if you don’t usually file taxes, you will have to do so to get those funds. 

In some cases — like if you received a letter from the IRS confirming that your payment was sent, but you never actually got the money — you may need to contact the IRS to request a Payment Trace


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Stimulus check No. 3: What you need to know

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What if I haven’t filed a tax return in several years?

If you receive federal benefits, including SSI and SSDI, as your only form of income, you weren’t required to file a federal income tax return in 2018 or 2019. Under the CARES Act passed last March, you were still eligible to receive a stimulus check and should’ve received one automatically (no need to file a simple tax return, as the IRS had originally said). If that money didn’t arrive, then you will have to file a 2020 tax return this year. We’ve got instructions on how nonfilers can claim missing stimulus money here, even if you haven’t filed taxes in a while. 

Third stimulus check eligibility for SSI and SSDI recipients: What to know

While the details are still being completed, it seems likely that people who receive SSI and SSDI will once again automatically qualify to receive a third stimulus check for $1,400, as they did for the first and second round of payments. 

For the first two rounds, those individuals were eligible so long as they had a Social Security number and weren’t claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return, and so long as their household income didn’t exceed the threshold set ($75,000 single, $112,500 head of household, $150,000 married). 

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The rules surrounding the second stimulus check can get confusing, fast.


Sarah Tew/CNET

President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal, however, expands stimulus payment eligibility for dependents of all ages, including young adults age 17 to 24 and older adult dependents. It would also increase the amount allotted for those dependents to $1,400 each. Congress is also debating how “targeted” the third checks should be — it’s possible that the income threshold will lower, so some families could get more money, while others could get less or none at all.

Those receiving Railroad Retirement and Veterans Affairs benefits also should automatically qualify for a payment, as they did in the first and second round. 

When would a third stimulus check arrive?

Other than the $1,400 maximum per adult and dependent, here are some other things you might like to know about how a third stimulus check is shaping up so far:

  • The first checks could go out in March. When you get a new payment could depend on how you get your funds.
  • The IRS and Treasury would use your previous information on file to automatically send you a check.
  • The Treasury would “conduct outreach to nonfilers to inform them of how to file” for their third payment, if extra information is needed, according to this proposal (PDF).
  • Any missing payment from a third check would be paid out as part of tax season 2021, a year from now. You would likely have to file a tax return to claim it, if the IRS were to follow the same pattern for missing stimulus check money as now (more below).

Each way you could receive your third stimulus check

Most SSI and SSDI recipients didn’t receive their first payments via their Direct Express card, though this is usually what the government uses to distribute federal benefits. Instead, the payment arrived through a non-Direct Express bank account or as a paper check, if you didn’t have your bank account information on file with the IRS. 

For the second round of payments, the IRS said on its website that SSI and SSDI recipients should have gotten their stimulus check money the same way they received their first stimulus checks, possibly faster, as the IRS already has the payment system set up. For those who received the first round of payments via Direct Express, they should have received the second payment the same way, the IRS said. It’s likely that the same will be true of a third check, if one is sent out (here’s a possible timeline for when the IRS could send out a third check). 

If you receive SSI but not Social Security benefits, and did not file for taxes in 2019, the IRS will automatically send your payment the same way you normally receive your SSI benefits, such as by direct deposit, Direct Express card or paper check

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If you’re missing stimulus money for yourself or your dependents, you’ll need to claim it on your tax return.


Angela Lang/CNET

Dependents could get more money with a third check this time

For the second stimulus check, as long as your children were 16 years old or younger, they would contribute $600 toward the final total of your household’s second stimulus check. You can use our stimulus check calculator to figure your family’s total estimate.

Under the CARES Act, qualified people with dependents age 16 or younger were eligible for up to $500 per child dependent, but not everyone actually received that extra money

The proposed third stimulus check would make dependents of all ages eligible for up to $1,400 that would apply to the household’s total payment, not just children under 17. That would include older adult relatives and college-age children as well.

Here’s who the IRS counts as an adult to receive their own stimulus check.

How to claim stimulus money still missing for dependents

If you used the IRS’ Non-Filers tool from May 5 through Aug. 15 of 2020, the IRS should’ve automatically issued the catch-up payment for your dependents in October 2020. If you received your original stimulus money by direct deposit, you should’ve gotten the catch-up payment the same way. Others would’ve received it in the mail. 

If you filed for your missing dependent money by Nov. 21, the payment should have arrived by the end of 2020 in the same way you received your first payment (likely direct deposit or by mail). If you missed the deadline, your check should be included on your 2020 tax return in 2021, if you file for a Recovery Rebate Credit.

To check the status of your or your dependent’s payment, use the IRS’ online tool to track it.

If you receive SSI or SSDI benefits but don’t reside in the US, here’s what you need to know

If you’re a Social Security beneficiary with a foreign address whose monthly benefit is deposited in a foreign bank account, you’ll receive your stimulus payment as a check in the mail. (The IRS doesn’t usually deposit money into foreign banks.) The IRS planned to start sending the first raft of checks to those recipients at the end of July 2020. 

If you live abroad but receive your monthly benefits through a US bank, you should have received your first payment by direct deposit to that account by the end of July as well. It isn’t clear what will happen to this group with the second check, but if it wasn’t distributed by Jan. 15, it will have to be claimed as part of a tax return. Find out everything you need to know about stimulus checks, citizenship and living abroad here.

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