Published on: April 30, 2020
The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has disrupted the lives of millions of Americans. Even in the Sunshine State of Florida, stay-at-home orders and business closures related to COVID-19 have put many people out of work. This disruption has caused many people on (or waiting to join) Social Security benefits programs to ask: “Will the coronavirus affect my social security benefits?” or “How does Social Security work when government offices are closed?”
For the most part, the COVID-19 outbreak will not affect those on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefit programs. However, there may be some changes in how the Social Security Administration (SSA) processes claims during this pandemic.
Future Changes to Social Security Benefits
SSI and SSDI benefits are a crucial lifeline for many people living in Florida. So, it’s little wonder that, in light of the current coronavirus crisis, many people are search things like “my SSI benefits Florida,” “how will coronavirus affect my Social Security account,” or “SSDI benefits Florida coronavirus.” Even before the pandemic outbreak, government officials were considering some changes to Social Security benefits programs.
In fact, a Forbes article from before the pandemic noted six major planned changes to Social Security in 2020. Here are some highlights from the article:
- Further Dipping into the Social Security Trust Fund. The article noted that, “the current excess trust fund revenue will be depleted by the year 2034” and that, because of dips into this fund, it “would likely be depleted faster.”
- Increase to Full Retirement Age. The full retirement Social Security benefits age has been increased to 67. While retirees can apply for benefits as early as 62, this will lower their retirement benefit payments.
- Higher Taxation on Social Security Benefits. Social Security income is taxable, and the rate of taxation will increase. As noted by Forbes, 50% of your benefits are taxable if you make, “between $25,000 and $34,000 as an individual” while that increases to, “$32,000 to $44,000 for a married couple.” Above these earnings levels, 85% of Social Security benefits will be taxable.
- The End of File and Suspend. The “file and suspend” Social Security maximization strategies is being eliminated. Couples will no longer be able to delay their own retirement credits while claiming spousal benefits under Social Security.
The majority of these changes are geared towards retirement benefits rather than disability. But, it’s important to note that some things, like the Social Security fund being drained, could affect your ability to receive benefits in the future.
How COVID-19 Affects Social Security
The COVID-19 pandemic will have a negligible impact on those who are already receiving SSDI or SSI benefits. As noted by the SSA on their coronavirus resources page: “You will continue to receive your monthly benefit amount if you use Direct Deposit.”
Checks by mail are still being processed as well, but the SSA encourages beneficiaries to, “visit the United States Postal Service for their latest statements about COVID-19.” This is because, while the SSA might still generate and mail out benefit checks, they still need to be processed by the post office and the outbreak may affect their deliverability.
The biggest impact to Social Security benefits services is the closure of many states’ Social Security offices for face-to-face meetings. This will prevent SSI and SSDI applicants from being able to make in-person appeals and applications.
However, online resources for filing for Social Security benefits will still be available. Some services (such as card replacement or the hearing of appeals) could be delayed due to the closure of physical offices and layoff of staff—similar to the effects of a government shutdown, but not quite the same.
What Changes to Social Security Benefits Mean to Recipients
You may be wondering: “What do these changes and impacts mean for my Social Security benefits?” For the most part, if you’re already on Social Security and receiving regular payments, you won’t have to worry too much about these changes.
Most of the big changes to the Social Security trust fund and Social Security offices will affect future applicants more than current beneficiaries. The major impact for current Social Security disability applicants in Florida is that they may face some extra difficulty in getting their applications reviewed and approved.
Additionally, many people who were on SSDI and were employed part-time as part of a rehabilitation program may need to file for unemployment. According to the SSA, these unemployment payments won’t affect your SSDI benefits. However, they do note that, “income from Social Security may reduce your unemployment compensation.”
Beware Social Security Scams Related to COVID-19
Some unscrupulous individuals are trying to take advantage of the coronavirus outbreak and the confusion of people applying for Social Security benefits to commit fraud. The SSA is warning people to watch out for:
“Calls, emails, or other communications claiming to be from the U.S. Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration, or another government agency offering COVID-19 related grants or economic impact payments in exchange for personal financial information, or an advance fee, or charge of any kind, including the purchase of gift cards, please do not respond. These are scams. Visit Treasury’s website if you suspect economic impact payment fraud.”
Some scams threaten recipients with the discontinuation of their Social Security benefits if they don’t send money or information to the scammer. The SSA will not suspend disability benefits because of office closures. If you receive an email or letter containing such a threat, you should report it to the SSA so they can conduct an investigation. By doing so, you can help protect others from the scammer in the future.
Need help navigating Social Security benefits during the coronavirus crisis? The team at Disability Experts of Florida is here to help! Reach out and let us know what you need help with.