So, let’s say that you did the digging and you don’t find your name on any databases stating that you have unclaimed money. There is still a chance that you might discover something else of value.
Have you ever received government benefits, like unemployment compensation or money from the SSA? What about gift cards from friends, family members or employers? Check out these two sources of surprise funds.
Unclaimed Government Benefits
If you have ever applied for any kind of government benefits, you know that the application process can be long and complicated. It can take weeks or months to get through the red tape and finally be approved.
But did you know that if you are approved for benefits, the government could owe you money from the time when you were eligible, but did not receive the benefits? Here are some of the most common government benefit programs with forgotten funds:
- Unemployment back pay: Anyone who lost their job during the pandemic probably knows firsthand how difficult it was to get unemployment benefits because the system was overwhelmed. If you think you might be owed money, you can check your state’s unemployment website to see if you can claim unemployment compensation during that waiting period.
- Social Security back pay: If you get SSI or SSDI for a disability, you may be eligible for SSI back pay. SSDI has a five month waiting period, so you would only receive back pay for disability for months that exceed that waiting period. The Social Security Administration will calculate any back pay due to you. If you are approved only for SSDI, you will get all of your back pay in one lump sum. If you are approved for SSI or both SSI and SSDI, you will get your disability back pay in three equal installments, each six months apart. If you feel that you are entitled to Social Security back pay, contact your local Social Security office.
- VA compensation back pay: If you have a service-related disability and meet other VA criteria, you may be able to receive disability pay. Unlike Social Security, the VA calculates your benefits based on the effective date of your injury or diagnosis, not on the application date. The amount of monthly benefits and the gap between this effective date and your approval generates your VA disability back pay amount. You may also be entitled to backpay for VA disability if the VA approves a claim it had previously denied after a review or appeal.
Unclaimed Gift Cards
Have you ever gotten a gift card and then lost it or forgot it in a drawer until it expired? There may still be a way to claim your gift from the merchant, depending on which state you live in. You can search for your state at the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators website to see if it is possible to use your unclaimed gift card money.
Each state has its own laws in regard to redeeming unclaimed property gift cards. Some states require gift card escheatment, where merchants turn over unused gift cards to the unclaimed property agency. In order to claim your benefit, your name would need to be listed with the merchant when the gift card was purchased (as with a digital gift card).
It would generally need to be redeemed within the dormancy period set by state law, and there may be additional state qualifications or requirements. In those states where unclaimed gift card money is turned over to the state, you can contact your state’s unclaimed assets agency to make a claim.