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!
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
According to this NOLO article, it may be possible to get this debt discharged through bankruptcy.
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:
- What Am I On Right Now? SSI or SSDI?
- How to Understand the Difference Between SSI and SSDI
- If you are working
- If Social Security thinks you are no longer medically disabled
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:
- Social Security thinks you are no longer medically disabled
- Someone is Paying Your Bills
- Someone is giving you money or inheritance
- Someone is giving you a free or discounted place to live
- You are not paying the right amount of rent
- You are working
- You Have Marriage, Divorce, Separation, Boyfriends, Girlfriends
- You Have too much money in the bank, or other resources
- You Own Two Cars
- You live with other people
More SSI regulations it might be helpful to know:
- Safe Ways to Save or Spend Money
- How Am I Allowed to Spend Money While on SSI?
- How Am I Allowed to Save Money While on SSI?
- Ten Common Reasons SSI Might Be Low
- Ten Common Reasons SSI Might be Denied or Stopped
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: