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204, 2020

Treasury Dept. Reverses Course on Stimulus Payments

By |April 2nd, 2020|Congress, Coronavirus, Rep. John Larson, Social Security, Trump Administration|

The Trump administration has reversed course on what would have been an unjust policy toward seniors struggling through the Coronavirus crisis.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says Social Security beneficiaries don’t need to file taxes to receive stimulus payments after all

The Trump administration has relented to pressure from seniors’ advocates and members of Congress, reversing course on what would have been an unjust policy toward older Americans struggling through the Coronavirus crisis.  The Treasury Department announced last night that Social Security recipients do not have to file tax returns in order to receive COVID-19 stimulus payments.  Instead, Treasury will use beneficiaries’ annual 1099 statements to generate stimulus checks.

Earlier this week, in direct contravention of the CARES relief act, the I.R.S. published guidelines that seemed to require seniors and the disabled receiving Social Security to file tax returns if they wanted stimulus checks.  Advocacy groups and several members of Congress  pushed back hard, demanding that Treasury reverse course and respect the letter of the law.

The administration succumbed to that pressure in less than one day, with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin announcing:

“Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return need to take no action, and will receive their payment directly to their bank account.” – Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

The new IRS guidelines would have imposed an undue hardship on seniors and the disabled, who do not always have the internet access or technical acumen to file taxes online — and are limited in other means of filing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we insisted in yesterday’s edition of Entitled to Know:

“The Trump Treasury Department and the I.R.S. must immediately clear up any doubt — and relieve America’s most vulnerable citizens of the obligation to file tax returns to get the cash payments they so badly need during this pandemic.” – National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, 4/1/20

More than forty members of Congress sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin demanding a reversal of the new guidelines.  Republican Senator Josh Hawley, not known as a moderate by any means, tweeted Wednesday that the administration’s announced policy was “ridiculous.”

Despite language Congress passed in #COVIDー19 relief bill to ensure Social Security beneficiaries would NOT have to file taxes to receive direct relief, IRS issued guidance saying seniors DO have to file taxes. That’s ridiculous. IRS should follow the law that Congress passed

One of Social Security’s leading champions in the U.S. House, Rep. John Larson (D-CT), released a statement today hailing the administration’s about-face:

“The Treasury Department made the right decision to reverse its misguided proposal and ensure that Social Security beneficiaries will automatically receive their economic impact payments as Congress had intended.”

The reversal capped an intense 24 hours of resistance from advocates who demanded that the administration adhere to the just-enacted CARES Act:

“The drafters of the CARES Act were clearly trying to correct the mistakes of the 2008 stimulus payments. Lawmakers that year required roughly 15 million Social Security beneficiaries and veterans to file tax returns to get their stimulus payments, even though they had no other need to file a return and the federal government already had the necessary information to send them payments directly.” – Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/31/20

The administration’s original position – that Social Security beneficiaries would have to file taxes to get stimulus payments – no matter how ill-considered, was not out of character.  Trump’s Social Security Administration (SSA) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have been actively trying to undermine Americans’ earned benefits through a variety of measures over the past three years.  The President’s budgets have sought to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid by trillions of dollars.  His advisors and his allies in Congress have called for “entitlement reform” in order to pay for the Trump/GOP tax cuts of 2017.  Although the administration reversed course this week amid intense pressure, seniors and their advocates will continue to insist that this administration stop asking seniors – who have done so much for this country – to make disproportionate sacrifices during times of crisis.


104, 2020

IRS Erects Hurdle for Seniors & Disabled Awaiting Stimulus Payments

By |April 1st, 2020|Coronavirus, Democrats, Social Security, Social Security Disability Insurance, Trump Administration|

Trump making it difficult for seniors to receive stimulus checks during corona pandemic

If only the Trump administration’s latest action on federal stimulus payments was a bad April Fool’s joke. Unfortunately, according to just-released IRS Guidelines, seniors and disabled Americans on Social Security must now file tax returns in order to receive cash relief payments.

“[The Trump] administration is creating barriers to Social Security beneficiaries, disabled people who have Supplemental Security Income, and veterans with pensions trying to get their $1,200 payments under the CARES Act.” – Daily Kos, 4/1/20

The IRS statement expressly contradicts the newly-enacted CARES Act stimulus relief bill.  That legislation specifically provided that Social Security beneficiaries need not file federal income tax returns; the Treasury Department simply would use the 1099 statements that every beneficiary receives in order to issue stimulus checks.

Response from the advocacy community and Capitol Hill has been swift:

“My colleagues and I strongly urge Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Social Security Administrator Saul to find a solution that will allow vulnerable groups to receive these funds automatically, without needing to file an additional return.” – Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-MA), House Ways & Means committee chairman

“The Secretary of the Treasury and IRS Commissioner should make a clear public statement that seniors and people with disabilities who receive Social Security won’t have to file a tax return to receive their stimulus rebate.” – Center for Budget and Policy Priorities

A group of more than three dozen Democratic U.S. Senators have sent a letter to the administration demanding that the I.R.S. clear up the confusion over its policy — and rescind any requirement that Social Security recipients file tax returns.

This afternoon, NBC News senior business reporter Ben Popkin reported that the IRS still plans to get Social Security beneficiaries’ data from their 1099 forms, but that “some seniors” still may need to file tax returns in order to get stimulus payments.  Clearly, this kind of statement from the I.R.S. does little to clear up the confusion it has caused.

According to reporting by the Washington Post, it appears that the administration (and some in Congress) originally wanted to compel Social Security beneficiaries to file tax returns in order to simplify the Treasury Department’s job, so as not to hold up cash payments to other Americans.  If accurate, this approach clearly penalizes seniors and the disabled.  Older people are less likely to have internet access or to know how to use online tools in order to file electronic tax returns.  Millions of seniors are in nursing homes and assisted living facilities currently on lockdown, limiting their access to IRS forms and the U.S. mail.  Some may not have family members to help them file taxes.

At the same time, seniors living on fixed incomes need cash relief as much – or more – than other Americans suffering through the COVID-19 crisis. According to the National Institute on Retirement Security, 40% of all Social Security recipients rely on their monthly benefits to cover all of their living expenses.  As the National Committee’s top Social Security expert, Webster Phillips, pointed out in this space two days ago, the $1,200 stimulus payment per individual (or $2,400 per couple) represents a considerable amount of extra income for Social Security beneficiaries, whose average monthly benefits are only about $1,500.

If you’re living close to the edge financially, this is a significant amount of additional money. You could use it to buy extra groceries, an extended supply of prescription medications, pay down debts… there are a multitude of important things you could do with it.” – Webster Phillips, National Committee senior legislative representative

The National Committee and other advocates do not want to see a repeat of what happened in 2008, when Social Security recipients were required to file income taxes to receive stimulus payments at the start of the Great Recession.  As a result, some 3.5 million beneficiaries who were unable to file returns received no stimulus payment at the onset of one of the worst financial crises in the nation’s history.

Today, at least 15 million Americans receiving Social Security are not required to file federal tax returns because their incomes are too low. Those are the last people that the Trump administration should be targeting, in complete contravention of the CARES relief act.  The Trump Treasury Department and the I.R.S. must immediately clear up any doubt — and relieve America’s most vulnerable citizens of the obligation to file tax returns to get the cash payments they so badly need during this pandemic.


3003, 2020

Q&A: Will Social Security Beneficiaries Receive Stimulus Payments?

By |March 30th, 2020|Coronavirus, Social Security|

Social Security beneficiaries are eligible for cash payments under the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act enacted by Congress last week.  Like other Americans, recipients of Social Security retirement and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits can receive up to $1,200 per individual adult or $2,400 per couple, dependent on income.

According to CNBC, “If you earn more than $75,000 as an individual or $150,000 as a couple, the total amount you’re eligible to receive starts to decrease. If you earn $99,000 or more as an individual or $198,000 as a couple, you aren’t eligible to receive a stimulus check.”

We asked our top Social Security expert, Webster Phillips, to answer some commonly asked questions about beneficiaries’ cash stimulus payments.

Q:  Can Social Security beneficiaries receive stimulus payments even if they haven’t filed taxes for 2018 or 2019?

A:  Yes. If beneficiaries have not filed 2018 or 2019 federal income taxes, the Treasury Department will use their annual 1099 forms to determine payment elibility.

Q:  Are Social Security beneficiaries subject to the same income eligibility requirements as other adults?

A:  Yes.  Beneficiaries whose Adjusted Gross Incomes (AGI’s) exceed $75,000 (or $150,000 a couple), will see their stimulus payments reduced.  Individuals with AGI’s of more than $99,000 or couples with AGI’s exceeding $198,000 will receive no stimulus payments.

Q:  Will it likely take a long time for Social Security beneficiaries to receive their payments?

A:  No. Beneficiaries should receive their payments fairly quickly because 99% of them already are paid through electronic deposits.

Q:  What percentage of Social Security beneficiaries likely will receive stimulus payments?

A:  We don’t have those numbers right now.  The National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) found in a recent study that 40% of older Americans rely solely on Social Security income in retirement.  Anyone in that category would certainly receive a stimulus payment, if not millions of others whose incomes do not exceed the AGI thresholds.

Q:  Is a stimulus payment of up to $1,200 per individual and $2,400 per married couple going to truly help Social Security beneficiaries?

A:  I would think it would be a considerable payment when you consider that $1,200 is close to the average monthly retirement benefit of $1,500.  For a married couple receiving the full cash payment, $2,400 is almost double the average monthly retirement benefit.  If you’re living close to the edge financially, this is a significant amount of additional money. You could use it to buy extra groceries, an extended supply of prescription medications, pay down debts… there are a multitude of important things you could do with it.

Q:   If I have a large, retroactive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) award, could it make me ineligible for a stimulus payment?

A:  If you received that award in 2019, yes it could.  But if you receive it in 2020, no.

If you have a Social Security question relating to the stimulus payments or anything else, you can get answers from the National Committee.  Submit a question on our Ask Us page, and receive a timely response from one of our experts!


2703, 2020

Sacrifice Our Seniors? Not now or Ever.

By |March 27th, 2020|Medicare, payroll taxes, Social Security, stimulus, Trump Administration|

FOX News analyst Brit Hume calls suggestions for seniors’ health to be sacrificed for the economy “entirely reasonable.”

On Wednesday, we wrote (below) about the rhetoric in conservative circles suggesting that seniors’ well-being – and their very lives – should be sacrificed for the greater good during the COVID-19 crisis.  Fortunately, leaders possessing a modicum of decency and common sense continue to push back on that idea – including both Democrats and Republicans.

“My mother is not expendable. Your mother is not expendable. We will not put a dollar figure on human life.  We can have a public health strategy that is consistent with an economic one. No one should be talking about Social Darwinism for the sake of the stock market.” – Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY)

“Letting the virus spread to your parents and grandparents to protect your 401k is not pro-life.” – Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY)

“We reject suggestions that it makes sense to prioritize the care of those who are young and healthy over those who are elderly or have disabilities. Such considerations turn human lives into checkmarks on a page rather than the sacred mystery they are. When we entertain these ideas, something of our very humanity is lost.” – Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Russell Moore’s eloquent plea for humanity and compassion in yesterday’s New York Times is definitely worth reading.

But some voices on the right, instead of condemning the idea that seniors should sacrifice their health for the sake of younger people, have amplified that message.  Responding to Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s pronouncement that he, as a 69-year old, would gladly give his life to protect the American way of life for young people, FOX News senior political analyst Brit Hume said the suggestion was “entirely reasonable.”

 “This circumstance [of clamping down on economic activity to slow the spread of the virus] is not sustainable.  The utter collapse of the economy is an intolerable result.” – FOX News’ Brit Hume

To learn more about these irresponsible statements that threaten older Americans’ well-being, read our original blog post from Wednesday::::

Listening to President Trump and some of his political allies, you might think that the lives of society’s most vulnerable members in this pandemic were less important than the economy – especially seniors.  While the president was in a rush to restart normal economic activity by Easter (against the advice of the nation’s top health experts), a prominent Republican – Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick – suggested that seniors are expendable in the face of economic turmoil.  As he told FOX news:

“No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that America loves for its children and grandchildren?’ And if that is the exchange, I’m all in.” – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-TX)

 Lt. Gov. Patrick, a 69 year-old Tea Party favorite, presumes to speak for all seniors when he says that they would gladly sacrifice their lives so that younger people don’t have to suffer through a COVID-19 recession.  For starters, most older Americans most certainly would prefer to stay alive while the nation takes reasonable steps to contain COVID-19, understanding that public health is paramount even if the economy takes a temporary hit.  Secondly, prematurely re-starting economic business as usual would endanger the economic and financial health of all Americans – regardless of age.

“Anybody who thinks we should prematurely end social distancing for the sake of the economy is fooling themselves. In the long run, the economy is going to be much better off if we end the pandemic — and the only way we can do that is by social distancing.” – Dan Adcock, Director of Government Relations and Policy, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

On Tuesday, President Trump seemed to pick-up on talk of sacrificing seniors for the greater economic good, posting a paradoxical tweet that pays lip service to protecting older Americans while pushing to re-start the economy as if it wouldn’t risk seniors’ health.

“Our people want to return to work… Seniors will be watched over protectively and lovingly.  We can do two things together. THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM!” – President Trump’s tweet, 3/24/20

Fortunately, there has been considerable public pushback against both Lt. Gov Patrick’s comments and the president’s apparent hurry to re-start regular commerce within a couple of weeks, the consequences be damned.

“Patrick seems to envision a dynamic in which the economy returns to normal as some elderly Americans succumb to a deadly virus, effectively taking one for the team. But among the reasons that’s ridiculous is there can be no economic normalcy while a pandemic sweeps through the populace.” – Steve Benen, MSNBC columnist

Twitter lit up with objections to Trump’s and Patrick’s comments under the hashtag #NotDying4WallStreet:

I’m #NotDying4WallStreet and neither should you, your parents, or your grandparents.

People over 60 are providers, parents, grandparents, friends, colleagues, and spouses. They are human beings who are loved and add value.

I’m definitely #NotDyingForWallStreet, nor are my parents, in-laws, or 103 year old grandmother!

I vow to keep older Americans & those at higher risk safe by staying quarantined.

Mainstream media commentators (including CNN’s Gloria Borger) and state leaders (especially New York Governor Andrew Cuomo) have also condemned calls to restart business as usual too fast – and risking seniors’ lives to do so.

While it’s gratifying that many Americans reject Patrick’s and Trump’s pronouncements, there is a larger context here.  No one really believes seniors will be pressured to forfeit their lives for the economy, but President Trump and his allies have frequently advocated policies that will cost seniors a considerable degree of their financial and health security – which ultimately can become life and death issues for the elderly.

The President championed a full payroll tax holiday in response to COVID-19, which would undermine Social Security – a program 64 million seniors and disabled Americans rely on.  His budgets have called for billions of dollars in cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (which pays for impoverished seniors’ long-term care). The administration and its allies in Congress have an intense desire to use senior’s programs to help pay for the added deficit created by the Trump/GOP tax cuts of 2017, which primarily benefitted the wealthy and big corporations.  Even Meals on Wheels and home energy assistance for low-income seniors were on Trump’s chopping block.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has imposed work requirements and erected other barriers that are stripping low-income patients (including older Americans) of their Medicaid benefits. During annual open enrollment, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has actively undermined traditional Medicare, tilting consumer information toward privatized Medicare Advantage plans – which can cost seniors more in the long run and limit their choice of providers.

To advance their agenda, the “entitlement reformers” who have the president’s ear (despite his promises not to touch Social Security or Medicare), often employ the tactic of generational warfare to pit younger against older Americans.  In truth, the interests of both generations are aligned, because today’s young people are tomorrow’s seniors – and will depend on their earned benefits in retirement more than ever.  Besides, most children and grandchildren do not want to see their older loved ones’ benefits endangered.

The National Committee will continue to take every opportunity to remind the public how seniors – and the programs they paid for –  stabilize our families, our communities, and, yes, our economy.  Asking Americans to choose between the interests of seniors and younger people presents a false choice.  Their well-being is deeply intertwined.  Older Americans and their families shouldn’t tolerate rhetoric or policies that threaten seniors’ health and security – or their value to our nation. 


2503, 2020

Seniors Shouldn’t be Sacrificed for the Economy – or Anything Else

By |March 25th, 2020|Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, Trump, Trump Administration|

Listening to President Trump and some of his political allies, you might think that the lives of society’s most vulnerable members in this pandemic were less important than the economy – especially seniors.  While the president was in a rush to restart normal economic activity by Easter (against the advice of the nation’s top health experts), a prominent Republican – Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick – suggested that seniors are expendable in the face of economic turmoil.  As he told FOX news:

“No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that America loves for its children and grandchildren?’ And if that is the exchange, I’m all in.” – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-TX)

 Lt. Gov. Patrick, a 69 year-old Tea Party favorite, presumes to speak for all seniors when he says that they would gladly sacrifice their lives so that younger people don’t have to suffer through a COVID-19 recession.  For starters, most older Americans most certainly would prefer to stay alive while the nation takes reasonable steps to contain COVID-19, understanding that public health is paramount even if the economy takes a temporary hit.  Secondly, prematurely re-starting economic business as usual would endanger the economic and financial health of all Americans – regardless of age.

“Anybody who thinks we should prematurely end social distancing for the sake of the economy is fooling themselves. In the long run, the economy is going to be much better off if we end the pandemic — and the only way we can do that is by social distancing.” – Dan Adcock, Director of Government Relations and Policy, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

On Tuesday, President Trump seemed to pick-up on talk of sacrificing seniors for the greater economic good, posting a paradoxical tweet that pays lip service to protecting older Americans while pushing to re-start the economy as if it wouldn’t risk seniors’ health.

“Our people want to return to work… Seniors will be watched over protectively and lovingly.  We can do two things together. THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM!” – President Trump’s tweet, 3/24/20

Fortunately, there has been considerable public pushback against both Lt. Gov Patrick’s comments and the president’s apparent hurry to re-start regular commerce within a couple of weeks, the consequences be damned.

“Patrick seems to envision a dynamic in which the economy returns to normal as some elderly Americans succumb to a deadly virus, effectively taking one for the team. But among the reasons that’s ridiculous is there can be no economic normalcy while a pandemic sweeps through the populace.” – Steve Benen, MSNBC columnist

Twitter lit up with objections to Trump’s and Patrick’s comments under the hashtag #NotDying4WallStreet:

I’m #NotDying4WallStreet and neither should you, your parents, or your grandparents.

People over 60 are providers, parents, grandparents, friends, colleagues, and spouses. They are human beings who are loved and add value.

I’m definitely #NotDyingForWallStreet, nor are my parents, in-laws, or 103 year old grandmother!

I vow to keep older Americans & those at higher risk safe by staying quarantined.

Mainstream media commentators (including CNN’s Gloria Borger) and state leaders (especially New York Governor Andrew Cuomo) have also condemned calls to restart business as usual too fast – and risking seniors’ lives to do so.

While it’s gratifying that many Americans reject Patrick’s and Trump’s pronouncements, there is a larger context here.  No one really believes seniors will be pressured to forfeit their lives for the economy, but President Trump and his allies have frequently advocated policies that will cost seniors a considerable degree of their financial and health security – which ultimately can become life and death issues for the elderly.

The President championed a full payroll tax holiday in response to COVID-19, which would undermine Social Security – a program 64 million seniors and disabled Americans rely on.  His budgets have called for billions of dollars in cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (which pays for impoverished seniors’ long-term care). The administration and its allies in Congress have an intense desire to use senior’s programs to help pay for the added deficit created by the Trump/GOP tax cuts of 2017, which primarily benefitted the wealthy and big corporations.  Even Meals on Wheels and home energy assistance for low-income seniors were on Trump’s chopping block.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has imposed work requirements and erected other barriers that are stripping low-income patients (including older Americans) of their Medicaid benefits. During annual open enrollment, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has actively undermined traditional Medicare, tilting consumer information toward privatized Medicare Advantage plans – which can cost seniors more in the long run and limit their choice of providers.

To advance their agenda, the “entitlement reformers” who have the president’s ear (despite his promises not to touch Social Security or Medicare), often employ the tactic of generational warfare to pit younger against older Americans.  In truth, the interests of both generations are aligned, because today’s young people are tomorrow’s seniors – and will depend on their earned benefits in retirement more than ever.  Besides, most children and grandchildren do not want to see their older loved ones’ benefits endangered.

The National Committee will continue to take every opportunity to remind the public how seniors – and the programs they paid for –  stabilize our families, our communities, and, yes, our economy.  Asking Americans to choose between the interests of seniors and younger people presents a false choice.  Their well-being is deeply intertwined.  Older Americans and their families shouldn’t tolerate rhetoric or policies that threaten seniors’ health and security – or their value to our nation.


Treasury Dept. Reverses Course on Stimulus Payments

By |April 2nd, 2020|Congress, Coronavirus, Rep. John Larson, Social Security, Trump Administration|

The Trump administration has reversed course on what would have been an unjust policy toward seniors struggling through the Coronavirus crisis.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says Social Security beneficiaries don’t need to file taxes to receive stimulus payments after all

The Trump administration has relented to pressure from seniors’ advocates and members of Congress, reversing course on what would have been an unjust policy toward older Americans struggling through the Coronavirus crisis.  The Treasury Department announced last night that Social Security recipients do not have to file tax returns in order to receive COVID-19 stimulus payments.  Instead, Treasury will use beneficiaries’ annual 1099 statements to generate stimulus checks.

Earlier this week, in direct contravention of the CARES relief act, the I.R.S. published guidelines that seemed to require seniors and the disabled receiving Social Security to file tax returns if they wanted stimulus checks.  Advocacy groups and several members of Congress  pushed back hard, demanding that Treasury reverse course and respect the letter of the law.

The administration succumbed to that pressure in less than one day, with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin announcing:

“Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return need to take no action, and will receive their payment directly to their bank account.” – Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

The new IRS guidelines would have imposed an undue hardship on seniors and the disabled, who do not always have the internet access or technical acumen to file taxes online — and are limited in other means of filing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we insisted in yesterday’s edition of Entitled to Know:

“The Trump Treasury Department and the I.R.S. must immediately clear up any doubt — and relieve America’s most vulnerable citizens of the obligation to file tax returns to get the cash payments they so badly need during this pandemic.” – National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, 4/1/20

More than forty members of Congress sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin demanding a reversal of the new guidelines.  Republican Senator Josh Hawley, not known as a moderate by any means, tweeted Wednesday that the administration’s announced policy was “ridiculous.”

Despite language Congress passed in #COVIDー19 relief bill to ensure Social Security beneficiaries would NOT have to file taxes to receive direct relief, IRS issued guidance saying seniors DO have to file taxes. That’s ridiculous. IRS should follow the law that Congress passed

One of Social Security’s leading champions in the U.S. House, Rep. John Larson (D-CT), released a statement today hailing the administration’s about-face:

“The Treasury Department made the right decision to reverse its misguided proposal and ensure that Social Security beneficiaries will automatically receive their economic impact payments as Congress had intended.”

The reversal capped an intense 24 hours of resistance from advocates who demanded that the administration adhere to the just-enacted CARES Act:

“The drafters of the CARES Act were clearly trying to correct the mistakes of the 2008 stimulus payments. Lawmakers that year required roughly 15 million Social Security beneficiaries and veterans to file tax returns to get their stimulus payments, even though they had no other need to file a return and the federal government already had the necessary information to send them payments directly.” – Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/31/20

The administration’s original position – that Social Security beneficiaries would have to file taxes to get stimulus payments – no matter how ill-considered, was not out of character.  Trump’s Social Security Administration (SSA) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have been actively trying to undermine Americans’ earned benefits through a variety of measures over the past three years.  The President’s budgets have sought to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid by trillions of dollars.  His advisors and his allies in Congress have called for “entitlement reform” in order to pay for the Trump/GOP tax cuts of 2017.  Although the administration reversed course this week amid intense pressure, seniors and their advocates will continue to insist that this administration stop asking seniors – who have done so much for this country – to make disproportionate sacrifices during times of crisis.


IRS Erects Hurdle for Seniors & Disabled Awaiting Stimulus Payments

By |April 1st, 2020|Coronavirus, Democrats, Social Security, Social Security Disability Insurance, Trump Administration|

Trump making it difficult for seniors to receive stimulus checks during corona pandemic

If only the Trump administration’s latest action on federal stimulus payments was a bad April Fool’s joke. Unfortunately, according to just-released IRS Guidelines, seniors and disabled Americans on Social Security must now file tax returns in order to receive cash relief payments.

“[The Trump] administration is creating barriers to Social Security beneficiaries, disabled people who have Supplemental Security Income, and veterans with pensions trying to get their $1,200 payments under the CARES Act.” – Daily Kos, 4/1/20

The IRS statement expressly contradicts the newly-enacted CARES Act stimulus relief bill.  That legislation specifically provided that Social Security beneficiaries need not file federal income tax returns; the Treasury Department simply would use the 1099 statements that every beneficiary receives in order to issue stimulus checks.

Response from the advocacy community and Capitol Hill has been swift:

“My colleagues and I strongly urge Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Social Security Administrator Saul to find a solution that will allow vulnerable groups to receive these funds automatically, without needing to file an additional return.” – Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-MA), House Ways & Means committee chairman

“The Secretary of the Treasury and IRS Commissioner should make a clear public statement that seniors and people with disabilities who receive Social Security won’t have to file a tax return to receive their stimulus rebate.” – Center for Budget and Policy Priorities

A group of more than three dozen Democratic U.S. Senators have sent a letter to the administration demanding that the I.R.S. clear up the confusion over its policy — and rescind any requirement that Social Security recipients file tax returns.

This afternoon, NBC News senior business reporter Ben Popkin reported that the IRS still plans to get Social Security beneficiaries’ data from their 1099 forms, but that “some seniors” still may need to file tax returns in order to get stimulus payments.  Clearly, this kind of statement from the I.R.S. does little to clear up the confusion it has caused.

According to reporting by the Washington Post, it appears that the administration (and some in Congress) originally wanted to compel Social Security beneficiaries to file tax returns in order to simplify the Treasury Department’s job, so as not to hold up cash payments to other Americans.  If accurate, this approach clearly penalizes seniors and the disabled.  Older people are less likely to have internet access or to know how to use online tools in order to file electronic tax returns.  Millions of seniors are in nursing homes and assisted living facilities currently on lockdown, limiting their access to IRS forms and the U.S. mail.  Some may not have family members to help them file taxes.

At the same time, seniors living on fixed incomes need cash relief as much – or more – than other Americans suffering through the COVID-19 crisis. According to the National Institute on Retirement Security, 40% of all Social Security recipients rely on their monthly benefits to cover all of their living expenses.  As the National Committee’s top Social Security expert, Webster Phillips, pointed out in this space two days ago, the $1,200 stimulus payment per individual (or $2,400 per couple) represents a considerable amount of extra income for Social Security beneficiaries, whose average monthly benefits are only about $1,500.

If you’re living close to the edge financially, this is a significant amount of additional money. You could use it to buy extra groceries, an extended supply of prescription medications, pay down debts… there are a multitude of important things you could do with it.” – Webster Phillips, National Committee senior legislative representative

The National Committee and other advocates do not want to see a repeat of what happened in 2008, when Social Security recipients were required to file income taxes to receive stimulus payments at the start of the Great Recession.  As a result, some 3.5 million beneficiaries who were unable to file returns received no stimulus payment at the onset of one of the worst financial crises in the nation’s history.

Today, at least 15 million Americans receiving Social Security are not required to file federal tax returns because their incomes are too low. Those are the last people that the Trump administration should be targeting, in complete contravention of the CARES relief act.  The Trump Treasury Department and the I.R.S. must immediately clear up any doubt — and relieve America’s most vulnerable citizens of the obligation to file tax returns to get the cash payments they so badly need during this pandemic.


Q&A: Will Social Security Beneficiaries Receive Stimulus Payments?

By |March 30th, 2020|Coronavirus, Social Security|

Social Security beneficiaries are eligible for cash payments under the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act enacted by Congress last week.  Like other Americans, recipients of Social Security retirement and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits can receive up to $1,200 per individual adult or $2,400 per couple, dependent on income.

According to CNBC, “If you earn more than $75,000 as an individual or $150,000 as a couple, the total amount you’re eligible to receive starts to decrease. If you earn $99,000 or more as an individual or $198,000 as a couple, you aren’t eligible to receive a stimulus check.”

We asked our top Social Security expert, Webster Phillips, to answer some commonly asked questions about beneficiaries’ cash stimulus payments.

Q:  Can Social Security beneficiaries receive stimulus payments even if they haven’t filed taxes for 2018 or 2019?

A:  Yes. If beneficiaries have not filed 2018 or 2019 federal income taxes, the Treasury Department will use their annual 1099 forms to determine payment elibility.

Q:  Are Social Security beneficiaries subject to the same income eligibility requirements as other adults?

A:  Yes.  Beneficiaries whose Adjusted Gross Incomes (AGI’s) exceed $75,000 (or $150,000 a couple), will see their stimulus payments reduced.  Individuals with AGI’s of more than $99,000 or couples with AGI’s exceeding $198,000 will receive no stimulus payments.

Q:  Will it likely take a long time for Social Security beneficiaries to receive their payments?

A:  No. Beneficiaries should receive their payments fairly quickly because 99% of them already are paid through electronic deposits.

Q:  What percentage of Social Security beneficiaries likely will receive stimulus payments?

A:  We don’t have those numbers right now.  The National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) found in a recent study that 40% of older Americans rely solely on Social Security income in retirement.  Anyone in that category would certainly receive a stimulus payment, if not millions of others whose incomes do not exceed the AGI thresholds.

Q:  Is a stimulus payment of up to $1,200 per individual and $2,400 per married couple going to truly help Social Security beneficiaries?

A:  I would think it would be a considerable payment when you consider that $1,200 is close to the average monthly retirement benefit of $1,500.  For a married couple receiving the full cash payment, $2,400 is almost double the average monthly retirement benefit.  If you’re living close to the edge financially, this is a significant amount of additional money. You could use it to buy extra groceries, an extended supply of prescription medications, pay down debts… there are a multitude of important things you could do with it.

Q:   If I have a large, retroactive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) award, could it make me ineligible for a stimulus payment?

A:  If you received that award in 2019, yes it could.  But if you receive it in 2020, no.

If you have a Social Security question relating to the stimulus payments or anything else, you can get answers from the National Committee.  Submit a question on our Ask Us page, and receive a timely response from one of our experts!


Sacrifice Our Seniors? Not now or Ever.

By |March 27th, 2020|Medicare, payroll taxes, Social Security, stimulus, Trump Administration|

FOX News analyst Brit Hume calls suggestions for seniors’ health to be sacrificed for the economy “entirely reasonable.”

On Wednesday, we wrote (below) about the rhetoric in conservative circles suggesting that seniors’ well-being – and their very lives – should be sacrificed for the greater good during the COVID-19 crisis.  Fortunately, leaders possessing a modicum of decency and common sense continue to push back on that idea – including both Democrats and Republicans.

“My mother is not expendable. Your mother is not expendable. We will not put a dollar figure on human life.  We can have a public health strategy that is consistent with an economic one. No one should be talking about Social Darwinism for the sake of the stock market.” – Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY)

“Letting the virus spread to your parents and grandparents to protect your 401k is not pro-life.” – Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY)

“We reject suggestions that it makes sense to prioritize the care of those who are young and healthy over those who are elderly or have disabilities. Such considerations turn human lives into checkmarks on a page rather than the sacred mystery they are. When we entertain these ideas, something of our very humanity is lost.” – Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Russell Moore’s eloquent plea for humanity and compassion in yesterday’s New York Times is definitely worth reading.

But some voices on the right, instead of condemning the idea that seniors should sacrifice their health for the sake of younger people, have amplified that message.  Responding to Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s pronouncement that he, as a 69-year old, would gladly give his life to protect the American way of life for young people, FOX News senior political analyst Brit Hume said the suggestion was “entirely reasonable.”

 “This circumstance [of clamping down on economic activity to slow the spread of the virus] is not sustainable.  The utter collapse of the economy is an intolerable result.” – FOX News’ Brit Hume

To learn more about these irresponsible statements that threaten older Americans’ well-being, read our original blog post from Wednesday::::

Listening to President Trump and some of his political allies, you might think that the lives of society’s most vulnerable members in this pandemic were less important than the economy – especially seniors.  While the president was in a rush to restart normal economic activity by Easter (against the advice of the nation’s top health experts), a prominent Republican – Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick – suggested that seniors are expendable in the face of economic turmoil.  As he told FOX news:

“No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that America loves for its children and grandchildren?’ And if that is the exchange, I’m all in.” – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-TX)

 Lt. Gov. Patrick, a 69 year-old Tea Party favorite, presumes to speak for all seniors when he says that they would gladly sacrifice their lives so that younger people don’t have to suffer through a COVID-19 recession.  For starters, most older Americans most certainly would prefer to stay alive while the nation takes reasonable steps to contain COVID-19, understanding that public health is paramount even if the economy takes a temporary hit.  Secondly, prematurely re-starting economic business as usual would endanger the economic and financial health of all Americans – regardless of age.

“Anybody who thinks we should prematurely end social distancing for the sake of the economy is fooling themselves. In the long run, the economy is going to be much better off if we end the pandemic — and the only way we can do that is by social distancing.” – Dan Adcock, Director of Government Relations and Policy, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

On Tuesday, President Trump seemed to pick-up on talk of sacrificing seniors for the greater economic good, posting a paradoxical tweet that pays lip service to protecting older Americans while pushing to re-start the economy as if it wouldn’t risk seniors’ health.

“Our people want to return to work… Seniors will be watched over protectively and lovingly.  We can do two things together. THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM!” – President Trump’s tweet, 3/24/20

Fortunately, there has been considerable public pushback against both Lt. Gov Patrick’s comments and the president’s apparent hurry to re-start regular commerce within a couple of weeks, the consequences be damned.

“Patrick seems to envision a dynamic in which the economy returns to normal as some elderly Americans succumb to a deadly virus, effectively taking one for the team. But among the reasons that’s ridiculous is there can be no economic normalcy while a pandemic sweeps through the populace.” – Steve Benen, MSNBC columnist

Twitter lit up with objections to Trump’s and Patrick’s comments under the hashtag #NotDying4WallStreet:

I’m #NotDying4WallStreet and neither should you, your parents, or your grandparents.

People over 60 are providers, parents, grandparents, friends, colleagues, and spouses. They are human beings who are loved and add value.

I’m definitely #NotDyingForWallStreet, nor are my parents, in-laws, or 103 year old grandmother!

I vow to keep older Americans & those at higher risk safe by staying quarantined.

Mainstream media commentators (including CNN’s Gloria Borger) and state leaders (especially New York Governor Andrew Cuomo) have also condemned calls to restart business as usual too fast – and risking seniors’ lives to do so.

While it’s gratifying that many Americans reject Patrick’s and Trump’s pronouncements, there is a larger context here.  No one really believes seniors will be pressured to forfeit their lives for the economy, but President Trump and his allies have frequently advocated policies that will cost seniors a considerable degree of their financial and health security – which ultimately can become life and death issues for the elderly.

The President championed a full payroll tax holiday in response to COVID-19, which would undermine Social Security – a program 64 million seniors and disabled Americans rely on.  His budgets have called for billions of dollars in cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (which pays for impoverished seniors’ long-term care). The administration and its allies in Congress have an intense desire to use senior’s programs to help pay for the added deficit created by the Trump/GOP tax cuts of 2017, which primarily benefitted the wealthy and big corporations.  Even Meals on Wheels and home energy assistance for low-income seniors were on Trump’s chopping block.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has imposed work requirements and erected other barriers that are stripping low-income patients (including older Americans) of their Medicaid benefits. During annual open enrollment, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has actively undermined traditional Medicare, tilting consumer information toward privatized Medicare Advantage plans – which can cost seniors more in the long run and limit their choice of providers.

To advance their agenda, the “entitlement reformers” who have the president’s ear (despite his promises not to touch Social Security or Medicare), often employ the tactic of generational warfare to pit younger against older Americans.  In truth, the interests of both generations are aligned, because today’s young people are tomorrow’s seniors – and will depend on their earned benefits in retirement more than ever.  Besides, most children and grandchildren do not want to see their older loved ones’ benefits endangered.

The National Committee will continue to take every opportunity to remind the public how seniors – and the programs they paid for –  stabilize our families, our communities, and, yes, our economy.  Asking Americans to choose between the interests of seniors and younger people presents a false choice.  Their well-being is deeply intertwined.  Older Americans and their families shouldn’t tolerate rhetoric or policies that threaten seniors’ health and security – or their value to our nation. 


Seniors Shouldn’t be Sacrificed for the Economy – or Anything Else

By |March 25th, 2020|Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, Trump, Trump Administration|

Listening to President Trump and some of his political allies, you might think that the lives of society’s most vulnerable members in this pandemic were less important than the economy – especially seniors.  While the president was in a rush to restart normal economic activity by Easter (against the advice of the nation’s top health experts), a prominent Republican – Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick – suggested that seniors are expendable in the face of economic turmoil.  As he told FOX news:

“No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that America loves for its children and grandchildren?’ And if that is the exchange, I’m all in.” – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-TX)

 Lt. Gov. Patrick, a 69 year-old Tea Party favorite, presumes to speak for all seniors when he says that they would gladly sacrifice their lives so that younger people don’t have to suffer through a COVID-19 recession.  For starters, most older Americans most certainly would prefer to stay alive while the nation takes reasonable steps to contain COVID-19, understanding that public health is paramount even if the economy takes a temporary hit.  Secondly, prematurely re-starting economic business as usual would endanger the economic and financial health of all Americans – regardless of age.

“Anybody who thinks we should prematurely end social distancing for the sake of the economy is fooling themselves. In the long run, the economy is going to be much better off if we end the pandemic — and the only way we can do that is by social distancing.” – Dan Adcock, Director of Government Relations and Policy, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

On Tuesday, President Trump seemed to pick-up on talk of sacrificing seniors for the greater economic good, posting a paradoxical tweet that pays lip service to protecting older Americans while pushing to re-start the economy as if it wouldn’t risk seniors’ health.

“Our people want to return to work… Seniors will be watched over protectively and lovingly.  We can do two things together. THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM!” – President Trump’s tweet, 3/24/20

Fortunately, there has been considerable public pushback against both Lt. Gov Patrick’s comments and the president’s apparent hurry to re-start regular commerce within a couple of weeks, the consequences be damned.

“Patrick seems to envision a dynamic in which the economy returns to normal as some elderly Americans succumb to a deadly virus, effectively taking one for the team. But among the reasons that’s ridiculous is there can be no economic normalcy while a pandemic sweeps through the populace.” – Steve Benen, MSNBC columnist

Twitter lit up with objections to Trump’s and Patrick’s comments under the hashtag #NotDying4WallStreet:

I’m #NotDying4WallStreet and neither should you, your parents, or your grandparents.

People over 60 are providers, parents, grandparents, friends, colleagues, and spouses. They are human beings who are loved and add value.

I’m definitely #NotDyingForWallStreet, nor are my parents, in-laws, or 103 year old grandmother!

I vow to keep older Americans & those at higher risk safe by staying quarantined.

Mainstream media commentators (including CNN’s Gloria Borger) and state leaders (especially New York Governor Andrew Cuomo) have also condemned calls to restart business as usual too fast – and risking seniors’ lives to do so.

While it’s gratifying that many Americans reject Patrick’s and Trump’s pronouncements, there is a larger context here.  No one really believes seniors will be pressured to forfeit their lives for the economy, but President Trump and his allies have frequently advocated policies that will cost seniors a considerable degree of their financial and health security – which ultimately can become life and death issues for the elderly.

The President championed a full payroll tax holiday in response to COVID-19, which would undermine Social Security – a program 64 million seniors and disabled Americans rely on.  His budgets have called for billions of dollars in cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (which pays for impoverished seniors’ long-term care). The administration and its allies in Congress have an intense desire to use senior’s programs to help pay for the added deficit created by the Trump/GOP tax cuts of 2017, which primarily benefitted the wealthy and big corporations.  Even Meals on Wheels and home energy assistance for low-income seniors were on Trump’s chopping block.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has imposed work requirements and erected other barriers that are stripping low-income patients (including older Americans) of their Medicaid benefits. During annual open enrollment, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has actively undermined traditional Medicare, tilting consumer information toward privatized Medicare Advantage plans – which can cost seniors more in the long run and limit their choice of providers.

To advance their agenda, the “entitlement reformers” who have the president’s ear (despite his promises not to touch Social Security or Medicare), often employ the tactic of generational warfare to pit younger against older Americans.  In truth, the interests of both generations are aligned, because today’s young people are tomorrow’s seniors – and will depend on their earned benefits in retirement more than ever.  Besides, most children and grandchildren do not want to see their older loved ones’ benefits endangered.

The National Committee will continue to take every opportunity to remind the public how seniors – and the programs they paid for –  stabilize our families, our communities, and, yes, our economy.  Asking Americans to choose between the interests of seniors and younger people presents a false choice.  Their well-being is deeply intertwined.  Older Americans and their families shouldn’t tolerate rhetoric or policies that threaten seniors’ health and security – or their value to our nation.