Treasury Department officials backtracked on a previously announced Wednesday deadline for disabled veterans who missed their coronavirus stimulus checks to register with the Internal Revenue Service, but said those households still could miss out on the money this year if they don’t reach out soon.
The confusion surrounding the checks has left lawmakers and veterans advocates frustrated that needy veterans could miss out on payments of $500 or more at a time when the fast-spreading virus has crippled the national economy.
House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., on Wednesday sent a letter to VA, Treasury and IRS officials lamenting a lack of clarity on the payouts at a time when veterans are already facing significant stress.
“Without a plan to ensure veterans and their families receive their entire stimulus payment automatically, vulnerable families will be at risk,” he wrote. “It is disabled veterans with dependents who will miss out on funds that are owed to them, making it more difficult to support and care for their families.”
At issue are disabled veterans who receive payouts from the Department of Veterans Affairs but do not earn enough income to file tax returns annually.
Earlier this month, the IRS issued stimulus checks worth $1,200 per individual and $500 per dependent to citizens based on prior years’ tax returns. Those disabled veterans — along with some Social Security recipients and other individuals who receive federal support benefits — were left out, since they did not have an up-to-date record and bank account on file.
On April 17, VA and Treasury officials announced a deal to fix that problem, allowing for automatic payments through individuals’ existing veterans benefits accounts. They said that would cover the $1,200 payouts, but families would still have to register with the IRS if they were also eligible for the $500-per-dependent checks.
Just three days later, in an official release, IRS officials said that work had to be completed before noon on April 22 or the dependent payments would be delayed until 2021. The memo specifically said veterans needed to meet that deadline.
A second, separate release on the IRS web site posted later said that veterans should work to meet that deadline but also noted that veterans would be granted “some additional time beyond April 22 to add their children, since their $1,200 automatic payments will be made at a later date.”
IRS officials on Wednesday confirmed that veterans can still update their dependent eligibility information as long as they have not yet received any stimulus payouts. However, they could not say when those payouts will occur, and what the new deadline will be.
They urged veterans to register with the agency as soon as possible, through the IRS web site.
VA officials referred all questions on the issue to the Treasury Department. Neither agency’s officials have said how many veterans’ stimulus checks may be affected by the records gap.
Takano called the different statements confusing and asked for the agencies to “explore additional options that will ensure veterans and their dependents receive the money they are owed” from the stimulus package, part of a $2-trillion measure approved by Congress last month. He said the current system is not enough.
“It is vital that everyone receive the entire amount of their stimulus payment this year for both themselves and their dependents without unnecessary complications or delay,” he wrote.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.