Can People on Disability Still Get Their Stimulus Checks in 2023?

Congress approved three stimulus checks for individuals as coronavirus relief, but millions of people haven't claimed theirs.

By , Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

There are no new federal stimulus payments for 2023 or 2024, but not everyone received the third stimulus payment related to the COVID-19 pandemic authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act. You should have received this payment, which the IRS calls an Economic Impact Payment, in 2021. But in August 2023, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) released a report saying that millions of eligible individuals hadn't yet received their stimulus payments.

People who have yet to receive their stimulus payments fall into several groups:

  • people who haven't filed a tax return in recent years
  • people without bank accounts
  • people with limited or no internet access, and
  • people who were experiencing homelessness in 2021.

Most SSDI and SSI recipients should have received their payments, since they were already set up to receive payments from the federal government, but some people have fallen through the cracks. SSDI and SSI recipients who haven't received checks can go on the IRS website to file a simplified tax return to get their unclaimed payments.

You have three years to claim a refund, so you should have until April 2025 to file your 2021 tax return.

How Can I Request a Stimulus Check That I Never Received?

To claim a missing stimulus payment, go to the IRS's web page for Economic Impact Payments. This page has instructions.

To view the amounts and dates of the stimulus payments in your name, you'll have to create an online account with Social Security here. You'll need this information to claim your "Recovery Rebate Credit," in lieu of a stimulus check. (The IRS is no longer issuing stimulus payments directly.)

To claim the credit, you'll have to file a 2021 tax return, even if you don't usually file taxes. You can file your 2021 tax return electronically for free on the IRS website, and the tax software will help you calculate your 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit.

Your 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit will be included in a tax refund that the IRS will send to you (or it will reduce any tax you owed for 2021). When you file your simplified return, you can request that your refund be direct-deposited into the financial account of your choice. You can ask the IRS to deposit it into a bank account or prepaid debit card, if you provide routing and account numbers.

Who Is Eligible for the Third Stimulus Check?

Most recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are eligible for the $1,400 COVID-19 stimulus check. Couples who file joint returns are eligible for $2,800. And SSDI and SSI recipients who have dependents are eligible for an extra $1,400 per dependent (as long as the child or other dependent lives with them for more than half the year).

You're eligible for a stimulus check as long as you have a Social Security number (a taxpayer ID number doesn't count) and you are not claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return (or possibly incarcerated).

Am I Eligible for a Stimulus Check If I Have Other Income?

If you have income in addition to your disability benefits that make your combined income over $75,000, you aren't eligible for the full stimulus payment. Similarly, if you're married and file a joint return, and your income combined with your spouse's income is over $150,000, you are eligible for only a reduced payment. In those situations, your stimulus payment, including any payment for dependents, is reduced by a percentage of the amount over those thresholds.

What income does the IRS look at to determine if your payment should be reduced? For the third stimulus check, the IRS used your "adjusted gross income" from your 2020 tax return (line 11 of your 2020 Form 1040) to determine if you're eligible. If you didn't file a tax return, the IRS used your income from your Social Security or SSI checks.

Am I Eligible for the Third Check If I Didn't File a Tax Return?

Individuals who receive Social Security disability or SSI should have automatically received the third stimulus check. If you don't file a tax return because your income is low and/or your only income is SSI or SSDI or veterans benefits, you are still eligible for the COVID-19 stimulus payment. If you received SSDI, SSI, or veterans compensation or pension in 2020, and you don't have dependents, you didn't need to do anything to get your $1,400; the government should have sent you your check automatically.

Disability recipients, however, may not have received the $1,400 for each dependent if they didn't file a 2019 or 2020 tax return and they didn't submit non-filer information to the IRS for the first stimulus check (more on this below).

When Should I Have Received the Stimulus Check?

Those who filed tax returns in 2019 or 2020 and gave their bank information to the IRS so their refunds could be direct-deposited should have received their third stimulus payment in March 2021.

How Should I Have Received the Stimulus Payment?

You should have received the automatic payment the same way you normally receive your monthly disability or pension payment—by direct deposit, Direct Express debit card, or paper check. Your stimulus payment, however, will come from the Treasury Department, not the Social Security Administration.

If you received the first or second check by direct deposit or Direct Express, you should have received your third payment the same way, but there are no guarantees.

If you received your first or second payment by EIP Debit Card, you should have received a new debit card in the mail in a white envelope with "Economic Impact Payment Card" in the return address.

If you've moved since last filing your taxes, you should file a change of address with the IRS on Form 8822.

How Do I Activate My EIP Debit Card?

If you receive an EIP Debit Card, you'll need to activate the card by calling the phone number that comes with the card and choosing a 4-digit PIN number. You can use your EIP card for purchases or use it to withdraw cash (subject to a daily limit). You can also transfer the funds from your EIP card directly into your own bank account, after you register for online access. (The card will come with instructions on setting up online access.)

What If My Income Is Lower Than When I Filed My Last Tax Return?

If you had decreased income in 2020 due to starting disability benefits and/or losing a job, you might be eligible for the money but you might not have received the third stimulus check in 2021. This could have happened if you filed a tax return for 2019 income that was above the $75,000 or $150,000 thresholds, but you made less income in 2020. You should be able to get the stimulus payment as a rebate (called the Recovery Rebate Credit) if you file a 2020 tax return.

Can Creditors Take My Stimulus Check or Rebate?

Your stimulus money is not subject to garnishment by the government, even for back taxes or student loan defaults. And unlike the first stimulus check, if you owe past-due child support payments, your second and third stimulus checks cannot be reduced to pay the past-due amount, and nor can your stimulus money can be levied or garnished by private debt collectors.

What about your own bank? If your bank account was overdrawn because of overdrafts or outstanding fees, your bank might take part or all of your stimulus check to bring your account even. Many large banks, however, stated that they will bring customers' bank balances to zero, temporarily, so that customers can access their stimulus checks. This includes Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase.

Will the IRS Offer Its Non-Filer Page to File a Simple Tax Return?

For the first stimulus check, the IRS required those who had just started to receive SSDI or SSI to use the "non-filer page" to file a simple tax return. Individuals who had already been receiving Social Security disability, SSI, or veterans benefits should have automatically received the stimulus money without filing a simple tax return, but they had to submit their non-filer information to the IRS to get $500 for each child under 17. The IRS did not make the non-filer tool available for the second or third stimulus payments.

Does the Stimulus Money or Recovery Rebate Affect My Eligibility for Disability Benefits?

For SSI (and veterans pension) eligibility purposes, the stimulus check or rebate doesn't count as income to you, and you don't need to report it as income to the Social Security Administration. Plus, it's not taxable. In addition, for SSI, the stimulus money or rebate won't count as a resource (asset) unless you still have all or part of it 12 months after receiving it.

For SSDI eligibility purposes, income and assets don't matter, so the stimulus check will have no effect.

Beware of Stimulus Check Scams

The Treasury Department is warning people about phone calls and emails from scam artists claiming to be from the Treasury Department or the IRS. You may be asked for personal financial information or an advance fee. Do not respond; the IRS will not contact you for your information, and you do not have to pay a fee to receive stimulus money or the recovery rebate.

For security reasons, the IRS will mail a letter to your last known address approximately 15 days after the agency deposits your stimulus money or mails you a paper rebate check. The letter will tell you how the payment was made and, if you did not receive the payment, how to request a replacement from the IRS.

Updated September 18, 2023

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