Why Are Disabled People Being Left Behind in the Latest Stimulus Payout?

Photo by Ian on Unsplash

00. Preamble

I did receive the first two economic impact payments, abbreviated EIP1 and EIP2, so I know that the infrastructure is there, so to speak. My monthly payouts from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) each include “TREAS” in their description, so I know these agencies are routinely able to process things. I can further gather from this that my bank is able to receive those payments from those agencies.

Bipolar disorder, PTSD, and more than a decade of eating disorder shenanigans have wrecked a lot of me, but I’m not dead yet. I’m working toward getting myself (relatively) more healthy. It’s an uphill battle, but it’s worth the effort. I kind of need to believe that to avoid being tempted to shoot myself in the head.

01. Why It Matters

There are a few things to note in terms of why this issue is of critical importance. First, according to SSA.gov, the average person receiving disability benefits takes in approximately $1,234 per month. The current Federal Poverty Guideline for an individual is $12,880.

If we take the average number and multiply by 12 (months), the yearly amount is $14,808: not below the poverty guideline, but not nearly enough to live comfortably, either.

My payment per month is roughly $800, because I became disabled at a relatively young age (applied in 2014, when I was 23) and hadn’t worked enough to pay in a lot to SSDI. That’s why I also receive SSI payments. I make roughly $9600 a year between the two.

That is nowhere near enough for anyone. The other issue is that being disabled and being poor tend to be quite expensive. I get Medicare and Medicaid, but they are limited in scope and coverage.

It’s a bit fascinating, if much more infuriating. For example, my current insurance claims to cover acupuncture. But there are zero in-network providers.

Another problem: you go to a place that you know accepts your insurance, like an urgent care center or a hospital. But when you get there, they tell you they don’t accept it. Or only a handful of providers there do accept it. Or maybe you go in for a procedure, and the person doing the procedure is in-network, but the anesthesiologist isn’t. Maybe you were supposed to get prior authorization and were uninformed of that until after the fact.

The point is, there are a host of things that can go wrong and result in getting a surprise bill in the mail for hundreds or thousands of dollars because of how the system is tangled up in itself. And what do you do then, when you only get $800 a month?

02. Who Has Reliable Information?

It’s unclear. Social Security indicates that it will provide an update “soon,” although that was more than ten days ago.

Screenshot from https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/eip3/ captured 3/23/2021 at approx 18:11

The IRS is no help, either. They discourage people from calling in because their phone operators do not have the information we seek regarding these payments. The Treasury websites are similarly bereft of useful information.

At least they aren’t lying to us, but there’s one thing I really don’t understand: why not process disability beneficiaries who have direct deposit information on file alongside the first wave last week?

For those needing a paper check or a prepaid card, I get that there may be some logistical issues that can cause delays. It also makes sense to me that there is a finite speed at which things can be processed. Only so many per hour, per day… but if it’s that simple, why wouldn’t they just say so? I still don’t understand why people making as little as I do, or less, wouldn’t be more of a priority. Especially other disabled people who can’t work.

03. No Answers?

That’s the weirdest thing about it, to me: no one seems to have an answer. And yet it must be someone’s job to handle this, in some capacity. Pressing a button, writing a letter, holding a press conference… anything, really, but a lackluster “we’ll let you know.”

We know that the IRS and Treasury are (at least among) the agencies responsible. Moreover, since we’ve had two rounds of stimulus checks go out before this one, it’s hard to understand why they wouldn’t follow the same or similar processes, unless the prior administration sabotaged things somehow. That’s not impossible, one supposes.

The problem may be that certain beneficiaries of Social Security benefits, including disabled people, do not file taxes. Disability benefits are nontaxable, so it’s not like it’s tax evasion or anything.

Recipients of [Social Security, SSI, RRB, and VA] benefits should get the third payment the same way as their regular benefits, according to the IRS. Those who don’t file taxes but receive benefits would also automatically receive the stimulus payment. (Source)

This was the case, for me, in the last two rounds of stimulus payouts. The government already has my direct deposit information, because that’s how I get my SSI and SSDI monthly benefits. The other options are paper checks and prepaid cards, so I’ve been watching the mail for that kind of thing, just in case, even though it’s extremely unlikely.

I will admit that I’d like someone to blame for this, in a way, but it’s not a priority, by any stretch of the imagination. What I want, and what’s most important to me, is to see the folks in charge get their act together. It should not be this hard to process these things, and even if the funds are significantly delayed, I want to know about that. Especially if there are known delays, we should be given information about it so we can plan ahead. At the very least, a ballpark figure would be helpful.

I expected that, since competent people are in charge in the White House now, things would go more smoothly. It’s only March, and I still have hope, because at least the current president isn’t orange, isn’t willfully destructive, and doesn’t tell bizarre lies. But I have to say, I thought this would be the easy part. I’m somewhat disappointed but mostly just confused.

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London Graves

London Graves

Queer vegan cryptid trying their best to survive late-stage capitalism while helping others do the same.