Holdover Trump appointees are delaying stimulus payments, House Democrats complain

Millions of disabled and retired Americans are having their stimulus payments held up and Democrats blame Trump

By Jon Skolnik

Published March 25, 2021 11:26AM (EDT)

Donald Trump | Social Security checks are run through a printer at the U.S. Treasury printing facility (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump | Social Security checks are run through a printer at the U.S. Treasury printing facility (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

While Internal Revenue Source officials have touted the agency's swift delivery of the latest batch of stimulus checks for much of the American public, there are still millions of disabled and retired Americans who are waiting for theirs, a holdup largely attributable to the Trump administration, Democrats said on Wednesday. 

According to House Democrats, the Social Security Administration still hasn't handed over the necessary payment information required by the IRS to deliver the relief checks to the 30 million Americans currently on disability or retirement benefits. 

"We were alarmed to learn recently that most [Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Railroad Retirement Board and Veterans] beneficiaries who are not required to file a tax return have not yet received their payments and that the IRS is unable to provide an expected timeline for these payments," Democrats wrote in a letter to Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul.

"Some of our most vulnerable seniors and persons with disabilities, including veterans who served our country with honor," they added, "are unable to pay for basic necessities while they wait for their overdue payments."

The IRS has sent stimulus payments to over 127 million Americans so far. On Monday, it promised to deliver an additional batch of checks on Mar. 24, though it's not clear whether Americans on disability or retirement plans will be the beneficiaries of the incoming batch. According to CBS News, the IRS has prioritized Americans who filed their 2019 or 2020 tax returns.

In the letter, House Ways and Means Committee chair Richard Neal, D-Mass., asked both the IRS and SSA to provide an update on their timeline to deliver the payments by Mar. 26. 

In the past, several Democrats, including Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., called on Biden to oust SSA Commissioner Saul, a Donald Trump appointee whose term does not expire for another four years. Biden has not signaled any intent to meet their demands, even though he's removed Trump appointees in other agencies. 

The SSA plans to send the payment information to the IRS on Thursday, an agency spokesperson told the Huffington Post. He explained that Social Security has been unable to work on the payments because lawmakers provided unusually low appropriations for the agency compared to previous years. 

"Social Security staff is working day and night with Treasury and IRS representatives to ensure that the electronic file of Social Security and SSI recipients is complete, accurate, and ready to be used to issue payments," the spokesperson said.

Last year, the IRS offered an online payment portal for Americans who didn't file their taxes. But IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said last week in a Ways and Means hearing that the IRS opted out of the portal in an attempt to encourage more lower-income people to file. 

"Many of these folks are also entitled to an [earned income tax credit]," he said to lawmakers. "They're also entitled to a child tax credit. We did not get that information from the non-filer portal."

Under Saul, the Social Security Administration has been rife with conflict. In the past, Saul has sidelined federal employee unions and sought cuts to disability benefits, often wresting control of the agency's disability hearing. Last December, the Association of Administrative Law Judges issued a vote of no confidence backed by 88 percent of its members.

Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

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