Sheldon Whitehouse

04/03/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/03/2020 18:37

Reed & Whitehouse Urge Treasury to Provide Veterans, SSI Beneficiaries with Direct Payments, Not Additional Paperwork

04.03.20

PROVIDENCE, RI - After successfully winning a major victory for seniors and retirees who rely on Social Security, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse are seeking to do the same for millions of other Americans who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and veterans who get benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Reed and Whitehouse say the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) should not unnecessarily delay and burden Americans with disabilities and veterans when these individuals need help, are social distancing, and may not have Internet access.

Today, Reed and Whitehouse joined with 43 colleagues in calling on the Trump Administration to issue direct payments automatically to recipients of benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Supplemental Security Income program. In their letter, the Senators point out that these are two groups with large amounts of non-filers and groups that the federal government has the data necessary to deliver the stimulus checks automatically.

Indeed, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act ensures that the U.S. Treasury has the authority to send automatic direct cash assistance to Social Security beneficiaries regardless of whether they file taxes or not. Under the CARES Act, anyone earning $75,000 or less will receive $1,200 as a direct deposit into their bank account, distributed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Reed and Whitehouse say it is imperative for the Administration to fully use the authority they already have under the CARES Act to help people who aren't able to fill out a mountain of paperwork.

The Senators' letter follows successful efforts this week to push the U.S. Treasury Department to automatically send Social Security recipients direct cash assistance included in the CARES Act without having to file tax returns.

'Today, we write requesting that you again use your authority to provide stimulus payments automatically to recipients of benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Supplemental Security Income program, without requiring them to file a tax return. This is the fastest, most-effective way to provide desperately needed help to more than 3 million low-income veterans, seniors, and people with disabilities,' the 45 Senators wrote.

Along with Reed and Whitehouse the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Brown (D-OH), Hassan (D-NH), Bennet (D-CO) Booker (D-NJ), Baldwin (D-WI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Coons (D-DE), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Duckworth (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Harris (D-CA), Heinrich (D-NM), Hirono (D-HI), Jones (D-AL), Kaine (D-VA), King (D-ME), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), Manchin (D-WV), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Murphy (D-CT), Murray (D-WA), Peters (D-MI), Rosen (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Schatz (D-HI), Schumer (D-NY), Shaheen (D-NH), Sinema (D-AZ), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Udall (D-NM), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warner (D-VA), Warren (D-MA), and Wyden (D-OR).

Full text of the letter follows:

April 3, 2020

Dear Secretary Mnuchin, Secretary Wilkie, and Commissioner Saul:

We appreciate the swift attention you gave to our April 1st letter urging the Department of Treasury ('Treasury') to automatically send rebates to Social Security retirement and disability beneficiaries that have not filed a tax return. Your decision will make receiving the rebate easier and faster for millions of seniors and people with disabilities across the country. Thank you.

Today, we write requesting that you again use your authority to provide stimulus payments automatically to recipients of benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Supplemental Security Income program, without requiring them to file a tax return. This is the fastest, most-effective way to provide desperately needed help to more than 3 million low-income veterans, seniors, and people with disabilities.

Treasury wisely decided to use its authority to take this step with regard to recipients of Social Security and Railroad Retirement benefits. Treasury can also make automatic payments to low-income veterans receiving VA benefits and very low-income seniors and people with disabilities receiving SSI. These are two groups with significant numbers of non-filers for whom the federal government has the data necessary to deliver the payments automatically - and they deserve the same treatment as Social Security recipients.

The process for getting SSI and VA beneficiaries payments would mirror the process that it is using for seniors and people with disabilities receiving Social Security: Treasury can match its data against the Social Security Administration's and the Department of Veterans Affairs' data to determine those SSI and veterans beneficiaries who aren't part of a tax filing unit and then issue them automatic payments for the amounts which Congress intended them to receive. Treasury should not require people with disabilities and low-income veterans and seniors to file a form to receive stimulus payments when the federal government already has the information it needs.

The law also requires Treasury to conduct a public awareness campaign in coordination with other federal agencies to ensure those who don't typically file a tax return receive these stimulus rebates. Please share information with us about your plans to design and implement this awareness campaign in a timely manner.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

-end-