Given the seriousness of the COVID-19 epidemic and its impact on seniors living in poverty, we are actively engaging with policymakers at every level to ensure their responses are prioritizing those at greatest risk of illness and death.
Here’s what we’re watching in Washington:
Social Security Beneficiaries Will Receive Stimulus Payments Automatically; SSI-Only & VA-Only Beneficiaries Must File Tax Returns
On Wednesday, the Treasury Department announced that people who receive Social Security Title II retirement, survivors’, and disability insurance benefits will not need to file tax returns to get their CARES Act Economic Impact Payments. While this is an important assurance, the Administration is still requiring millions of low-income seniors and people with disabilities who receive only Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Veterans (VA) Disability Compensation or Veterans Pension benefits to file a tax return in order to receive their stimulus payment. These individuals need the stimulus payments the most and will spend them the quickest, but many of these individuals face very significant barriers to filing tax returns.
Call your members of Congress at (202) 224-3121 and tell them: "Thank Treasury for doing the right thing for Social Security beneficiaries—now they need to include SSI recipients as well."
HHS Office for Civil Rights Releases Bulletin on Prohibitions Against Discrimination
Recently, disability rights advocates filed four complaints about discriminatory state protocols for the COVID-19 pandemic. In response late last week, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights issued “Civil Rights, HIPAA, and the Coronavirus Disease 2019,” a bulletin to guide states, hospitals, and providers in developing treatment rationing plans and administering care in the event of a shortage of medical equipment, hospital beds, or health care personnel. The bulletin advises “entities covered by civil rights authorities [to] keep in mind their obligations under laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, and exercise of conscience and religion in HHS-funded programs.” It specifies providers’ and entities’ obligations to provide effective communication and qualified interpreters, make emergency-related messaging accessible, and “address the needs of individuals with disabilities.”
Administration Will Not Reopen HealthCare.gov
This week HHS stated that it will not reopen HealthCare.gov for a special enrollment period (SEP) during the health emergency. This means uninsured or underinsured people in the 38 states that use the federal HealthCare.gov platform will not have access to ACA marketplace coverage unless they qualify for an existing SEP. Of the 13 state-based marketplaces, 12 have created SEPs in response to the COVID-19 crisis.