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SSDI and SSI: What to know about stimulus check eligibility, catch-up payments, more

If you're an SSDI or SSI recipient, there's plenty to know about the second stimulus check, including what to do if your first or second check never arrived. We've got the details.

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Good news for people in SSI and SSDI programs. You'll likely be eligible for a second stimulus check.

Angela Lang/CNET

If you're a part of the SSI or SSDI programs -- short for the Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance -- the IRS said you should automatically be eligible to receive the first two stimulus checks (and likely the next stimulus payment, too). But if, for whatever reason, you haven't received all or part of your $1,200 first or $600 second payment, or any money for each eligible child dependent, then it's time to start thinking about what you need to do to claim it.

We'll get you in the right frame of mind if some or all of your money didn't arrive, and also answer important questions about stimulus checks from the SSDI and SSI lens, including eligibility and delivery, now that the IRS' deadline to automatically send the second checks has passed. In addition, here's how you can start estimating how much money you could get in the next stimulus check, and how soon the new payment could come.

This story was updated with new information.

SSI, SSDI and second stimulus check eligibility: What to know

The question of who qualifies for a second stimulus payment is mostly the same as it was for the first round of payments from the March 2020 CARES Act. That means if you're part of the SSI or SSDI program, you'd qualify for a check just like you did before, so long as you have a Social Security number and you aren't claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return. 

Also, your household income cannot exceed the threshold ($75,000 single, $112,500 head of household, $150,000 married). Those receiving Railroad Retirement and Veterans Affairs benefits also should automatically qualify for a payment. Note that because of some fairly complex math in the stimulus check formula, in general, more people received a smaller stimulus check or none at all

Read more: Here's how your stimulus check rights right have changed

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Why wouldn't I have gotten a first or second payment?

According to the IRS, people who receive Social Security retirement, SSDI, Railroad Retirement benefits and Supplemental Security Income as well as Veterans Affairs beneficiaries were automatically eligible for both payments so far. 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.

What can do if either stimulus check is missing?

If you receive SSI or SSDI but still haven't gotten a stimulus check 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 when you file your taxes, using the Recovery Rebate Credit. Even if you don't usually file taxes, you will have to do so to get those funds. 

Also, if you registered with the Non-Filers tool by Nov. 21, 2020, the IRS says you should've received the payment by now, specifically in December 2020. If you missed the Nov. 21 cutoff, the IRS says you can receive your payment in 2021 when you file your federal tax return. Here's what we know about how to track the status of your second stimulus check -- and the first, if it's missing.

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

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

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What if I haven't filed a tax return in the last 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, 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).

How will my stimulus money be delivered to me?

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. 

This time around, the IRS says on its website that SSI and SSDI recipients should have gotten their stimulus check money the same way they receive 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.

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

It's likely you'll receive a third stimulus check -- if it happens -- the same way as the second check, though it's too soon to say for sure.

Do my children qualify for a stimulus check?

As long as your children are 16 years old or younger, they'll 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 third stimulus check that President Joe Biden proposed would make dependents of all ages eligible for money that applies 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.

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If you're missing stimulus money for yourself or your dependents, you'll need to claim it during the upcoming tax season.

Angela Lang/CNET

Will I get the catch-up money for my 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. 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've 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 will be included on your 2020 tax return in 2021

To check the status of your or your dependent's payment, use the IRS' online tool to track it. You should also get a letter in the mail letting you know that an additional $500 per qualifying child has been issued. 

What if I receive SSI or SSDI benefits and live outside the US?

If you're a Social Security beneficiary with a foreign address whose monthly benefit is deposited into a foreign bank account, you'll receive your stimulus payment as a check in the mail. (The IRS isn't meant to 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've 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.