How To Eliminate a Social Security Overpayment (or at least try to!)

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Robin Mead

Sometimes Social Security gives you too much money. You may not even know it is happening. You may just assume they are sending you the correct check. After all, they are Social Security!

When they become aware of the overpayment, they will write and ask for the extra money back. It can take years before they realize the problem, and by that time it can be a LOT of money. Like $10,000 or $20,000 or more!

If you can’t pay back the money, they may lower your future checks. The people who work at Social Security may tell you that you have no choice and you have to agree to letting them take the money back. Or, if you do not respond, they will just start lowering your check.

You do not have to accept this. If the overpayment was not your fault, you have the right to appeal or request an overpayment waiver. Here are two great booklets on this topic:

💮 Guidebook from National Legal Aid

💮 Guidebook from Disability Rights California

There are MANY different appeals you can do. Some people only fill out one form requesting an overpayment waiver and then give up. This is just one of your options. You can:

💮 Request reconsideration – Fill out a “request for reconsideration”. 60 day deadline.
💮 Appeal the reconsideration – If that doesn’t work, request a hearing with a judge.
💮 Request a Waiver – Fill out an overpayment waiver form.
💮 Appeal the waiver – If that doesn’t work, appeal and request a hearing with a judge.

If you think that you were never overpaid, and do not really owe any money, you can do all four of these things. If you think you do owe the money, but you are too broke to pay them back, you may decide to skip the first two things, and move straight to requesting a waiver.

If all four of those things don’t work, you can still appeal even further if you want!

Deadlines

There is no deadline on requesting an initial request for an overpayment waivers. Even if they told you about the overpayment many years ago, you can still fill out the form and request the waiver.

There are very strict deadlines on everything else. It is usually 60 days. There are deadlines to request hearings, and to request reconsideration. And to request appeals.

Whatever you do, and whatever anyone tells you, never miss a deadline. It does not matter if someone at Social Security tells you they are working on it or looking into it, or agrees to meet with you or plans to get back to you. Never, ever miss a deadline.

Submit all your appeals IN WRITING. Send them by certified mail or bring them to the local office and get a stamped receipt.

Never, ever just work things out by talking and assume that it is OK now. Get it in writing.

If you miss a deadline: What To Do If You Miss a Social Security Deadline

Bankruptcy 

According to this NOLO article, it may be possible to get this debt discharged through bankruptcy.

Getting Help

Free services – In some areas your may be able to get free legal assistance from a local nonprofit poverty law or Legal Aid program, or from your state’s Disability Rights Agencies.

Paid services – You can also hire a regular disability lawyer, but they will want a few thousand dollars upfront.

It is also possible to do it on your own. You do not need a lawyer to win an overpayment appeal.

Appeals and waivers are sometimes denied at first. If this happens, be persistent and keep appealing. Sometimes it takes three or four different appeals.

Why Am I Getting an Overpayment Notice?

It’s very important to know why you are getting this overpayment notice. The reason for the overpayment should be listed in the letter you received, however sometimes it is difficult to understand, or it may not include all the information you need.

If you do not know what is causing the problem, it will be harder to solve the problem. You may just keep getting more and more over payment notices.

If you don’t know why you are being sent an overpayment notice, it may be helpful to request an appointment with someone at your local Social Security office (can be a phone appointment) and/or to request a copy of your file with information on the overpayment decision. Contact your local office – do not call the national number.

Other ways to figure out why you are being sent to an over payment notice: your Congressperson’s Office may be able to find out for you, or your local Legal Aid program may be able to find out for you.

How Do I Prove That the Overpayment Was Not My Fault? 

In order to be eligible for a reconsideration, appeal, or waiver, you will may to show that the overpayment was not your fault.

💮  In some cases, there is nothing to prove. Social Security made a typo or administrative mistake that you were not aware of, and could not possibly have been your fault.

💮  Other times, it may be helpful to take steps to show if the overpayment was not your fault: How Do I Prove that a Social Security Overpayment was Not My Fault?

In addition to showing it was not your fault, they will look at these issue:

💮  For a reconsideration – Did social security make a policy mistake on your case? If possible, it would be helpful if you can enclose a copy of the policy that you think they broke.

💮  For a waiver – Are you too poor to pay the money back? The overpayment application will ask for details on your income and expenses. You chances of success will be greater if you can show that having your check reduced, means that you will not be able to meet your basic living expenses (rent, food, utilities, medical care, disability-related expenses).

SSDI Common Problems and Solutions

SSI and SSDI are two different programs. If you are on SSDI you are much less likely to get an over payment notice. Here’s a few links that may be helpful:

SSI Common Problems and Solutions

Here are some common reasons why someone on SSI might get an overpayment notice, along with solutions so that this does not continue to happen in the future:

More SSI regulations it might be helpful to know:

Learn More

Success stories! Stories from people who got their overpayments completely waived and owed $0. Here’s how they did it.

If your overpayment happened because you have too many resources (for example, too much money in the bank) take a look here: If You Are Over the SSI Resource Limit

If you are meeting with someone at Social Security, and they tell you something that sounds untrue, or they are not willing to listen to what you are saying, try one of these Magic Sentences That Can Turn a No Into Yes.

Here’s a list of people and places you may be able to contact for help if you are having a problem with Social Security or if you cannot get your questions answered. Contacting your Congressperson’s office can be especially helpful.

If you are feeling confused or you are being told conflicting information, there’s a very good chance this is happening because someone is mixing up the resource room with the income rules. Totally different rules! How to Tell the Difference Between the Income and Resource Rules

Overpayments are common for SSI. If you are on SSDI, it is possible to get an overpayment, but much much less likely. How to Understand the Difference Between SSI and SSDI Without Making Your Head Explode

Updated February 2018. Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons: 

19 thoughts on “How To Eliminate a Social Security Overpayment (or at least try to!)”

  1. Hi,

    In 2001, my father was an on duty police officer struck by a drunk driver and was required to go on disability. During this time period, my family collected social security benefits. Fast forward five years, my father receives a settlement from his accident and social security office considers this income during those years we were collecting. Now my mom is “over payed” $17,000… She appeals, is denied. Sets up payment plan for monthly and is told as long as she keeps up payments it won’t be an issue. Due to their lovely phone payment system, she misses monthly payments, but pays her total overall once she is able to reach their payment line. Now, because she defaulted on their agreement in their eyes, they have withheld my IRS refund check (I am the daughter, was 8 at the time of “over payment”). I tried to call in today to their office, an no surprise was disconnected after waiting 1 hour and 37 minutes.

    I’m just trying to figure out if they have a legal standing to come after the child who received these financial benefits as an 8 year old.

    I will naturally be calling again at 7am, but any advice before I contact them is appreciated.

    Like

        1. Good luck! That page also has info on rebuttal. If it looks to you like the regs apply to you (under 18)… I would definitely try to appeal in writing. No matter what is said to you verbally, I would not miss the written appeal deadline. Also, I would enclose a copy of the policy and assume that anyone you speak to at SSA may know less than you do about this 🙂

          most appeals use a form called “request for reconsideration”

          Like

  2. I just received my 1st overpayment notice after being on SSI for over 2 years. They are saying I owe over $10k because I had too many resources for almost all of the months I’ve been on SSI and will reduce my check by 10% (no mention of medical eligibility). I looked at their month by month calculations in the letter and I can tell they are including student loan money I had prior to applying and backpay installments covering the time I applied. Student loan money is not a resource and backpay is supposed to be “excluded from resources for the 9 calendar months following the month in which the individual receives the benefits” [1, 2].

    I received one installment in December so those funds are not supposed to be countable for January through September. The next installment came 6 months later (in June) so there was a period of overlap where neither backpay installment was countable. To make things more confusing I moved around a lot and the state I started in pays their SSI supplement separately instead of getting one check from Social Security.

    The current checks and backpay were all directly deposited into my checking account. Their policy is to “Always assume, when withdrawals are made from an account with commingled funds in it, that nonexcluded funds are withdrawn first, leaving as much of the excluded funds in the account as possible” [3].

    To try and keep track of what was coming in, current spending, resources, and what is not countable I moved those backpay installments (making sure the exact amounts) to my savings accounts they already knew about. So all but a few dollars there would be excluded. They are treating it like new money.

    I just mailed (certified, signature request, return receipt) the form for reconsideration [4]. I checked the box for “Informal Conference.” What is the difference between the case review, informal, and formal conferences?
    I haven’t done a waiver form yet [5]. I’m not sure if it’s appropriate. Wouldn’t that be admitting to being overpaid and the amount I owe? I want them to redo their calculations and figure out what do I actually owe, if anything.

    I’m printing bank statements and doing my own calculations (I wish I had an accountant). It’s possible I slipped up for a month or two, mainly when the 1st excluded backpay money rolled over into the countable resources.

    I’m especially worried about what this means for Medicaid. I see a lot of specialists and am in medical offices virtually every other day. I even had a surgery a few months ago! It would be catastrophic if they all come after me for over a year’s worth of payments. Does Medicaid care if I went over $2000 while still deemed disabled?

    1. https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0500830455#b
    2. https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0501130600
    3. https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0501130700
    4. https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-561.pdf
    5. https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-632.html

    Like

    1. Hi Brian

      So sorry you are in this position.

      Great job with research.

      I totally agree that backpay is excluded for 9 months. If you got multiple installments, the it should be a new 9 months each time.

      Unfortunately, student loans are not excluded as a resource, they are only excluded as income.

      If excluding your backpay (but including student loans) would be enough to bring you below the limit for any of those months, you have a case for appeal.

      If not, you can still file an overpayment waiver request due to financial hardship.

      There’s no deadline on waivers, so you can file that any time.

      If your resources are under the limit in this moment, you should be able to continue medicaid. If they are not under the limit right now, hope this helps:

      https://howtogeton.wordpress.com/options-and-next-steps-if-you-go-over-the-ssi-resource-limit/

      Like

    2. I forgot to say…. student loans won’t be a resource in the month they are received… it’s only if you still have them at the end of last day of the month that they count.

      Like

  3. Long story short. My 12yr old twins were born prematurely at 26 weeks. They spent 3 months in the NICU. A social worker from the NICU helped them get on SSI, they were both dx’d w/ cerebral palsy at around a year old. They both received SSI until 2015, when SSI arbitrarily decided that one of the things functions too well to be on SSI.
    My husband is a salaried employee with limited benefits, and his income has remained steady, with his slight raises reported. I was able to work part time as a server until my own health went away. I decided to apply for SSDI in 6/16. I was approved when I noticed backpay deposited in 11/16. My Medicare started 4/17, I got one of my hips replaced in 5/17.
    In 9/17, SSI sent a letter stating my son was overpaid $10300+. The reason they stated was unearned income. The paperwork shows them applying my backpay back in time to his case to 2015. That is a paradox, how can they count money that didn’t exist yet because I had not yet applied as unearned income against him? I called, they were apologetic and tol5 me to file a waiver. I did. Made a copy. In 3/18 I had a hearing where I hoped to explain, instead I got a very comfrontational worker who wouldn’t let me speak, just kept saying I didn’t report the income, which I tried to explain was a paradox how do I report unearned SSDI income back in 2015-16 that I hadn’t even applied for yet? I got nowhere, asked if this was a form of discrimination, once I did that I was escorted out by security. 2 weeks later I received CDR paperwork. I met the deadlines, Ive been having ongoing medical issues and am seeing 5 specialists at the moment trying to figure it out. I’m on 12 meds daily. My medicare is the difference between life and death.
    Didn’t matter. June 2018 I received my SSDI Cessation letter. I appealed. I have been getting my medicare and SSDI.
    I have a hearing with a disability hearing officer March 5th 2019.
    ⚡I have tried to find a lawyer, to no avail. Been told if I’m denied and go before a judge one lawyer might.
    ⚡They told me on the phone the other day I had right to a lawyer, I explained Ive explained the situation, lady said “too bad I had plenty of time.”
    ⚡ Following the overpayment hearing I never got a letter stating anything? That I was found incorrect, or they were correct. How do I appeal at this point? I have gotten a office of overpayment statement saying I owe $10388.
    ⚡I certainly wouldn’t have applied for SSDI had I known it would effect my son’s financial future, and bankrupt us.

    Like

    1. Oh my goodness. I am so sorry.

      I would consider contacting congressperson. Since the story is complicated, they may not know how to help, so I would start out with a simple story and simple request…. you believe a mistake was made and you were wrongly charged an overpayment, you appealed and were never sent an answer, can they check for you what happened to your appeal and how you can request further appeal? That is something in their power to do.

      I’m sorry to say I don’t know how backpay is applied, it may have to do with how it got filed on your taxes. If it was listed as broken up over the years it might appear as unreported income?

      Another option is to put in a new overpayment waiver request. I think you can always do a new one, especially if your financial circumstances have changed?

      I sincerely hope that the cdr was just a coincidence. I do not know. There is information on appealing a cdr here. Hope this helps: https://howtogeton.wordpress.com/how-to-appeal-a-continuing-disability-review/

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi
    I disputed my case in 1992 and was told it would be dismissed. Long story short 26 years later they’re going to come at me. Can you make a defense recommendation?

    Warm regards

    Joe

    Like

    1. Hi Joe,

      Sorry to hear this happened. If you think they made a mistake, you can contact your congressperson to help you sort out the mistake: https://howtogeton.wordpress.com/2017/05/22/how-to-get-help-from-your-congressperson/

      Do you remember if you were given a written notice about the dismissal? If it turns out that the case was not dismissed, I’m not certain what your options are. What was the reason it was going to be dismissed?

      There is no deadline on filing an overpayment waiver, so if you are very low income, you could file a request for a waiver now.

      Like

  5. I’m receiving ssdi -decided to go to work part time thinking as long as I make under $2000 a month to catch up on bills that I would be ok with Social Security! I was sending them proff of my earnings received letter saying I have to pay back $4000 because of my earnings ! Going to fill out 19 pages to waive and appeal it! What are my chances!

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  6. I spoke to SSA today after holding for an hour just so she could tell me that she was unable to help. First she stated that she was going to look into the case to see what “they” were referring to about his resources being over. She states that she can not find what other resources or what resources were over. She stated that all she could find was the letter I had received stating the overpayment(s). She stated that usually she would be able to see the reasons but not in our case.
    I then asked her if a letter had been sent out & maybe we just didn’t receive it in regards to them notifying us that his check was being terminated. She looked into it & stated that she could not find where a letter was sent out to notify us. I then asked her if it was not common practice to send out a notification letter of when benefits are being terminated & she responded that it was but didn’t know why one wasn’t sent out to us. She recommended I contact the local office which they are the responsible ones for our case. I will do so tomorrow/today.

    I apologize for dumping so much on you! I didn’t mean to use up so much of your time!

    Like

  7. As far as the last name, thank you. Just like when I posted here for the 1st time, I was hiding anything or my mind even thinking like that. So, no we have no other resources. I don’t understand anything that’s going on. I haven’t hidden from them & I can only assume as of now that it might have been the rent checks putting us over. My husband & I will have to go back in time & check those months & see if that is when our landlord was accumulating the rent checks.
    Even our tax refund was spent right away. We used it to pay towards a credit card ($10,000). We also deposited & spent a check of $12,000 right away that my father in law lent us.
    After Daniel was born & we were told he would need open heart surgery & the time he would spend in the hospital, I told my husband that he would have to quit his job since we had no one that would watch our other 4 little boys. At the time they were 9, 7, one not quite 2 & one not quite 1 years old. My husband’s medical insurance canceled our coverage 3 days before Daniel’s surgery. We found out from a phone call on our way to the hospital for pre-op.

    Anyways, we used $14,000 from a retirement account to pay everything we owed & after that we started using credit cards to pay for everything. We knew what we were doing but had no other choice as my husband (with a Master’s in Geology) struggle to find work in the small town we had moved to. As of January this year we owed $55,000 in credit cards. We almost filed for bankruptcy but felt guilty & decided to pay what we owed. So, income tax refund $10,000 & check borrowed from his father & we have brought our debt down to $35,000.

    So no, we have no other resources or any money. We are not on food stamps so $ is always kept in the bank for groceries; but not even close to $5000 or $2000 if we don’t count the rent checks.

    Like

    1. I understand. So sorry this is happening to your family.

      If you make an appointment with your child’s SSI caseworker at your local office they may be able to provide you with more information about what caused the problem.

      If you are under the limit right now, you can also request to get his SSI started again while you are at that appointment.

      They will count the money from both your account and your child’s account.

      If your father in law lent you money, it is best if you have a signed loan agreement with him – would need to be dated BEFORE you received any money. If you don’t have that, it’s possible the SSI would be affected during the month you got that money, but since you spent the money right away, it would only be a one-month problem.

      If you feel the problem was the rent checks, you could try filing an appeal and enclose proof of what happened. I’m not sure it would work, but you can try. The person at your local office may just tell you it’s not possible – but they can’t stop you from filling out the from and trying – many people are told “no” to things at their local office and then go on to get what they wanted anyway.

      If the appeal is denied, then you can request a hearing, and again bring proof showing what happened. You are more likely to have success at a hearing.

      If the hearing still gets denied (or if you don’t want to appeal) then you can try an overpayment waiver. If the waiver is denied, then you can also request a hearing for the overpayment waiver.

      So there are many things you can do!

      If your son has money in his account when you request the overpayment waiver, it is less likely to be successful.

      Do you own two cars, or a life insurance policy or retirement plan? These things are sometimes considered resources.

      If you are over the resource limit there is more info here: https://howtogeton.wordpress.com/options-and-next-steps-if-you-go-over-the-ssi-resource-limit/

      Many good and honorable people file for bankruptcy, especially as you are caring for many children and your child is sick. I do not feel this is something to feel guilty about.

      Like

  8. Well, we just received the 1st letter (since his check stopped) from SSA stating we owe them $7,791.71. It is 10 months worth of his check dating back to August 2016. I have checked the links you provided. Once again, thanks for all your help.

    Like

    1. I’m sorry you are having to deal with this.

      I had a few other thoughts I wanted to mention:

      1. If you spend money from your savings at this point, it would be a good idea to keep receipts. If you reapply for SSI, they may ask for this. They will be looking to see that the money was actually spent (not hidden or given away). Do not give away money.

      2. I still believe the limit for your family is $5,000, unless there are other factors I don’t know about. So here is my question:

      If you look back at the last ten months – and you look at everything in all accounts on the LAST DAY of each month… If your landlord had cashed your rent checks on time, would you still have been over the limit? Are there any months that would have been under?

      3. Do you know if there are any other resources or belongings that put you over the limit? Is it just bank account, or also other things (like second car)?

      4. Once you get all this settled, you might look into opening an ABLE account. That is a way to save money for a disabled child that does not affect SSI.

      Also, I am going to edit your last name off your comment.

      Like

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