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Geri-Antics: Make your voices heard seniors

By Anne Carmichael

Journal columnist

I must admit to finally succumbing to the mood swings from over a year of COVID-19 restrictions. I’m cranky and I know it.

I sometimes cry at TV commercials and other non-sensical triggers.But unlike many with legitimate reasons to be sad or angry or with clinical imbalances that cause them to be unable to control their moods, I typically find that just getting off my chair and doing some physical labor or challenging my brain in some constructive way usually lifts my spirits.

If that fails, I just nap or have an early bedtime.

One task that only tends to make me angrier, (and has thus far proven futile), is dealing with the IRS in an attempt to locate the second $600 stimulus payment that was promised to all Americans.

Some seniors are being discriminated against with respect to these stimulus payments. We are likely to need these boosts to our income and limited budgets more than any other segment of the population.

Those of us older than 65 are likely retired and struggling to live on a single, monthly Social Security payment. Yearly cost of living increases typically amount to less than $15 a month, the cost of one meal or co-pay for one doctor’s visit or one prescription.

Many times, seniors are forced to choose between medication, food or meeting their financial obligations. For most seniors, mortgage payments or rent are equal to more than half of their Social Security income, leaving little for utilities, insurance, health care and basic living expenses.

It is, after all, our age group that statistics and research have shown are most at risk of contracting and dying from COVID, so shouldn’t we be the first to receive the assistance of COVID stimulus?

While I certainly understand that there are many younger people with families, some who have been out of work for months, who are desperate for assistance, I also know they do have other avenues available, such as unemployment benefits, public assistance and many can (and have) supplemented their income with other temporary employment.

Even prior to the pandemic, seniors are often physically unable to work, don’t always have transportation and are seen by most businesses as unemployable. Although we do have more experience, it’s unlikely that an employer would hire someone older than 65 for whom health care and other benefits would be more costly and whose length of service to their company would be far less.

I was fortunate to be one of the first to receive the original stimulus payment, and for that I am most grateful. The first  payment was deposited directly into my checking account, the same account into which Social Security has been depositing monthly checks since I was 62.

The IRS had all of my banking information readily available, so it was completely logical that they would automatically make the deposit quickly and easily in this fashion without any input or action from me.

When I checked the IRS website in search of payment no. 2, I saw where the first payment was made, the date it was deposited and the same bank account information as it remains today, so why wouldn’t the second payment automatically go into my account?.

I called the IRS ‘Get My Stimulus Payment’ hotline and was told that, although I no longer file taxes (and didn’t prior to receiving the first stimulus check), I will have to file taxes for 2020 to receive the second payment.

I explained that I have no other taxable income to report. The representative to whom I was speaking (obviously reading from the script she had been provided) added that she understood and even commented that her own mother (age 82) was going through the same thing, even though she had received the first payment without any input from her. She hadn’t filed taxes for some 15 years, but now was being told she must file taxes to get her second payment.

I am told that some people have received a letter from the IRS, stating that if they haven’t received the second payment, they must go on the IRS site and fill out the 1040 tax form.

I’ve done a little research and it confounds me as to why some seniors who have not filed taxes in decades have received both stimulus payments without any input or requirements to file taxes when none were paid, and others who received one payment have not received another. 

I have written to our senator, the IRS, and even the White House, to ask for help in this matter. I did this, not only on my own behalf, but to try to bring this issue to the forefront of our lawmakers and politicians for all seniors. I feel we are the most at-risk, most needy, and most unrepresented segment of our society.

I pointed out in my calls and communications that, not only are seniors less likely to be able to seek assistance from a tax service this year because we are being told to stay home and stay safe; but there are many who do not have access to a computer or the knowledge of technology to file the forms they are telling us we must submit.

If you are experiencing the same delays and challenges as I have described, speak out. Call the IRS. You’ll be on hold for up to an hour before they answer your call, but hang in there and wait your turn in the queue. Just put your phone on speaker and go about your business while listening to some classical music on their answering machine.

Additionally, write to your congressmen, senators, the president and the IRS. Make your voices heard.

Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the oil and hopefully, the loudest voices will get the money owed to us.