Social Security Overpaid Me $18K & Now Wants It Back

What if someone owes $18,000 to Social Security from overpayment and now the SSA wants the money back?

What if someone owes $18,000 to the Social Security Administration from overpayment from when they were younger and now the SSA wants the money back? What can the government do if they don't repay it? They are not disabled and work a normal, minimum-wage job. They can't afford to pay it back.

Read full question
Bill's Answer
4.0
/5.0
(6 Votes)
Bills.com Team
Pro

By Bills.com Team
September 8, 2009

Highlights


  • The Social Security Administration routinely overpays beneficiaries.
  • The SSA will ask a beneficiary to return overpayment.
  • Beneficiaries can appeal overpayment requests.

Overpayment of Social Security benefits is not uncommon. Mistakes can be made by either person receiving the benefits or by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Because of the complex formulas used to calculate benefits, and the huge number of beneficiaries in the system, the SSA inevitably makes mistakes in benefits payments. Errors can also result from the applicant not informing the SSA of some important change in their situation.  Some common errors include:

  • A person earning income and not informing SSA.
  • The SSA recalculating benefits it already paid.
  • A change in a person's living situation, such as  a reduction in housing costs, that affects the benefits award.

Request for Repayment

When the SSA realizes it has overpaid a beneficiary, it will send the individual a letter requesting that recipient pay back the money that he or she received in error. However, the SSA knows that some of the people who it has overpaid in the past are not financially capable of compensating the SSA for the overpayments, which can be substantial, especially if the error was not caught and corrected quickly.

Quick tip:   

If repaying Social Security is causing you to struggle with other bills, get a no-cost, no obligation analysis of your debt options from a pre-screened debt relief provider.

Repayment Waiver

The SSA has a whole section on its Web site discussing overpayment issues and what you can do if you either think that you were not overpaid, or if you cannot afford to pay back the money. You can visit Understanding Supplemental Security Income Overpayments for more information. Also, the forms you need to complete are available at Request For Waiver Of Overpayment Recovery Or Change In Repayment Rate - Form SSA-632-BK.

If you claim inability to repay the debt due to financial hardship, you will need to submit the appropriate form (see SSA Web page mentioned above) along with proof of your inability to pay, such as your pays-tub, rent receipts, and utility bills, receipts for medications and other medical care, and any other documentary evidence supporting your claim that you do not have enough money to repay the SSA after meeting your family's basic living expenses.

The SSA will review your request, and if it approves the request, it may entirely or partially waive the overpayment obligation. If the SSA rejects your request, you do have the option to file an appeal; depending on the amount of money in question, it may be wise to hire a lawyer to assist you with the appeals process.

Many legal aid and other pro bono legal services can assist with SSA overpayment disputes (for an example of the types of help you may be able to receive through legal aid, you can visit Pine Tree Legal Assistance's page How to Cope with Social Security Overpayments).

In a worst case scenario, the SSA may be able to garnish your wages and seize other assets, such as money in your bank accounts, to collect this debt. This extreme action is only likely to happen if you ignore the problem and do not communicate with the SSA to work out some type of solution, either a waiver, deferment or repayment, or an affordable payment plan.

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.

Best,

Bill

Bills.com

40 Comments

Recent Best
1500 characters remaining
  • 35x35
    Apr, 2012
    Terry
    We had an agreement with s.s.d.i. for the supposed overpayment. We have it in writing, now they stopped his pay saying they are going to take it all until it is p.d., or he retires. I thought an agreement was a agreement,especially where we have it on paper. Can they do this?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Apr, 2012
      Bill
      Consult with a lawyer who can read the contract you signed with the Social Security Administration, and can take appropriate action if the Social Security Administration is in violation of your contract.
      1 Votes

    • 35x35
      Apr, 2012
      terry
      There was no contract. We made a verbal agreement at the SSI office. They sent us two letters to confirm that they would take $100 per month out for 427 months. Then in September, we received a different type of letter, no SSI heading, just SSI publications, saying that because of the overpayment they would be taking $1,000 per month. That is his whole check.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Mar, 2012
    Danielle
    My husband was injured as a child and apparently began receiving benefits in 1996 when he was 8.Because he was a minor his mother's name was on all the checks. He never personally received any money. He had a terrible childhood so he left when he was 17. Now he is 23 and they are saying that he owes over $18,000.We have already filed to have it waived and explained that he has not lived at the address they sent everything since 2006 and never signed any of the checks so his mother must have it, but they told us that he is still responsible because he should've had her name removed after turning 18. Can they hold someone who received benefits as a minor responsible when they turn 18 even if they had no idea that the checks were being sent? Please help.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Mar, 2012
      Bill
      You spouse needs more assistance than someone like me can offer in an e-mail message or Web posting. Consult with a lawyer who has experience in litigating issues with the Social Security Administration.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2012
    Devona
    The amount of people that get overpaid (lots of them), seems like social security is just throwing the money out the windows, I think they should have a law suit thrown on them to straighten up there act. They dont know what they are doing and didnt even realize they were overpaying me, I had to tell them. I am demanding that they stop overpaying me, it takes them forever to do anything. Its ridiculous how they run this business. They dont know what they are doing, different answers from each one of em. I would suggest you get a receipt every time you turn info into them saying what it was you turned into them. They are telling me I didnt notify them of BWC payments, I did! Its ridiculous how they operate. Somebody needs to check them. I would be glad to help out if there is a lawsuit, not for the money but to make the country run better!
    1 Votes

  • 35x35
    Nov, 2011
    James
    Hi, I am currently going through a problem with social security and need help. I recieved a letter saying I owe $14,161 because I was overpaid for 18 months when I was not supposed to recieved dissability. When I called and asked why I am still collecting payments, they said it is from SSI and not dissability. I asked why I wasn't receiving SSI during the payments of dissability, and they said because you can't receive SSI while getting Disability. I have no idea what to do, I just finished college so I have to start paying back student loans. I work a temp job that barely gets me by and I really don't want to become homeless again. I have had 5 different addresses (including my car) due to bad living arrangements and have struggled to stay alive over the last 8 years. Social Security said they sent me multiple letters, but I never received them and this is the 1st I heard of it. Why would they make the mistake of continueing to put direct deposit payments into my bank account for 18 months when I am not supposed to receive them anymore? More importantly, why do I have to be the one to pay for their mistake?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Nov, 2011
      Bill
      Contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visit your local Social Security office and ask about the overpayment. They will examine each overpayment individually and will follow established procedures governing overpayments, appeals, and waivers. They will aid you in filling out the correct forms. If they are not helpful then look for local free legal counseling.

      Unfortunately, when it comes to the government, when they make a mistake in your favor, you are still responsible.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2011
    Shirleen
    I have a question, My husband is on Social Security Income and has been for 10 years. He worked and made over his amount, He contacted SS and they worked out a plan by which $100 per month is currently being taken from his check. He originally owed a total of $24,000. If he should pass away, do I, as his wife have to repay that? I am getting up there to collect my own SS, will they take it from mine? Thank you.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Oct, 2011
      Bill
      I am not aware of any Social Security Administration rule making a surviving spouse liable for a deceased spouse's overpayment, or the spouse's repayment agreement. Readers, please comment below if you have information to the contrary.
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Feb, 2012
      Christine
      In response to the question of who is reponsible for repayment of an overpayment in the event of death of beneficiary, see Social Security publication SI 02201.021. Short answer: yes, the spouse may be liable.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jun, 2011
    Lexi
    Social Security recently sent me a letter saying I have been over payed $20,000 by them and they want me to pay it back. Will they just take that money out of my $900 check I usually receive from them every month? Also, how do I get off social security for good? And if I did get off social security for good, would I have to pay that $20,000 out of my own pocket? I am so confused. Help me please!!!!!!!!
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jun, 2011
      Bill
      Consult with a lawyer in your state who has experience in consumer law. A lawyer will be able to interview you and learn why you are receiving Social Security benefits, can review the reasons why the Social Security Administration believes you were overpaid, and can explain your rights and liabilities.
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jul, 2011
      Shannon
      My mother passed away 2 years ago and SSA continued to pay benefits for about 6 months after she died. It was direct deposited into her and my joint account. The bank has placed a hold on the overpayment but SSA has still not retracted the money from the bank. I really want to close the account but the bank said I have to wait for SSA to request the money back...as I said it has been 2 years...any ideas what I should do? It is $10,000. Thank you
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jul, 2011
      Bill
      Have you tried contacting the Social Security Administration directly? The SSA Web site explains how they accept overpayment on benefits.

      I think that you may be able to get the bank to make out a bank check in the name of the SSA, once you determine the exact amount that needs to be repaid. That way, the bank can be assured that the money will not be used by you, personally.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    May, 2011
    Anna
    The SSA stated they over paid my daughter $9000 & now wants it back. Her father receives disability so therefore she gets a benefit, which took the place of child support. Her father started working & informed SSA of this he still gets SSI & is working. Due to this they said the benefits should have been suspended when he started working, but he informed them of this & they told him the benefits would continue. I never received any additional money from his job. I have a court order stating the disability benefit is considered child support. How is this my fault & why do I have to pay it back. I don't have that kind of money to pay back. What can I do?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      May, 2011
      Bill
      Reread the original answer above, and consider completing a Social Security Form SSA-632-BK. Consult with a lawyer who has experience with Social Security negotiations if you need assistance in arguing your daughter's case with the Social Security Administration.
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      May, 2011
      Anna
      Would you recommend the Waiver or the Reconsideration?
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      May, 2011
      Bill
      I cannot give you legal advice. Consult with a lawyer, who will interview you, ask probing questions about the circumstances surrounding how your ex-spouse received information that he should not report his income to the Social Security Administration, and review your divorce decree. He or she will explain the positives and negatives of each approach, and recommend the best course of action for you.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Apr, 2011
    Anne
    Another question, if you are being investigated due to false reports because of a revenge situation, who would you talk to about it? Is there some sort of lawsuit you can file to put a stop to someone accessing your ssa account? Say if your sister is friends with an IRS agent and you start mysteriously having problems with the ssa because of this? I don't get along with my sister and my ex-in laws and she knows this and has gone behind my back and helped everyone who has even gotten a tiny bit upset with me to gang up and cause me and my children problems but maintains she of course did no such thing.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Apr, 2011
      Bill
      Consult with a lawyer in your area who has experience in civil litigation. He or she will review your issue with the Social Security Administration, your potential tax issue, and the possible slander issue. Regarding the latter, you need some evidence your sibling is causing you harm. This evidence must be in form of statements from witnesses who can describe your sibling's behavior, or e-mails, or recordings of telephone conversations, and so on.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2011
    Andrew
    If I am currently in Ch. 13 Bankruptcy, is SSA allowed to offset my taxes for over payments made prior to filing even though they did not file for payments under my plan?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Feb, 2011
      Bill
      Consult with your bankruptcy lawyer about this question. He or she knows far more about your situation than I, and will advise you precisely.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2011
    Dona
    I have a similar question regarding a SSA overpayment of over $17,000.00. I was married to my first husband for 40 years and then divorced. When I married my second husband, within the required time-frame, I went to SSA and applied for a new SS card and reported my new marriage. The SSA employee told me that I could use either husband's SS# - whichever one was higher. I continued on my ex-husband's SS#. When my current husband passed away recently, I went to SSA again to report his death. This red-flagged my file. The SSA employee told me incorrect information 4 1/2 years ago, and now they say I owe them for the overpayment even though it was not my fault. My frustration is that they won't tell me how they calculated the amount of overpayment. They admit they have not given me credit regarding what I would have received if I had used my new husband's SS#. Will SSA go back 4 1/2 years and adjust what I would have received under my new husband and recalculate it? Is there a statute of limitations when it applies to giving credit in this kind of case? I have applied for reconsideration and now need to give them my financial information. If I have any savings for emergencies - will they insist that I can afford to pay them back? Thanks for your help! I am so frustrated. I now know that Social-Security is an oxymoron. When are we ever safe to spend what we collect from SSA? At what point to you recommend an attorney? Thanks!!!
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Feb, 2011
      Bill
      Consult an attorney whenever you believe your rights are being infringed upon. In the case described here, you consulted with the Social Security Administration to learn which course of action to take, took it, learned you were told the wrong information, and now face a penalty for it. It would be foolish to advise you not to consult with an attorney. Yes, a lawyer's time is not cheap, but the alternative if you lose your appeal is very expensive indeed.

      Regarding the statute of limitations, I have not discovered a statute of limitations for the Social Security Administration to collect on over payments. I welcome readers to correct me on this or any other subject.
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Sep, 2011
      Dona
      This is me (Dona M.)again. I just received word after nearly 9 months of waiting that the SSA has issued me a waiver concerning my overpayment. I wrote numerous letters of appeal, made many phone calls, involved my state senator and the decision was finally made. It's a miracle as far as I am concerned. I am very grateful. I would like to encourage anyone in my situation to stand up for the injustice of it all. Also, save your paperwork from SSA - you just might need it someday!
      2 Votes

    • 35x35
      Sep, 2011
      Bill
      Thank you for returning and sharing your good news. Your advice is sound, indeed.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Dec, 2010
    William
    When SSA makes errors and overpayments are made over a protracted period of time, when does the statute of limitations bar overpayment recovery of the earlier overpayments? i.e. how many years back can SSA go to obtain recovery?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Dec, 2010
      Bill
      The Social Security Administration's Overpayment Electronic Fact Sheet is a good place to start to learn about this issue. The Social Security Administration (SSA) published the rules Congress wrote to govern the SSA's operation. Section 204. (42 U.S.C. 404) concerns overpayments and underpayments. I see no statute of limitations Congress placed on the SSA to recover overpayment. I cannot find any court cases that limit the SSA's time to recover either. Consult with an attorney in your state who has experience in appealing SSA decisions. He or she will learn more about your exact circumstances, and give you a precise opinion.

      Your time to appeal an overpayment and ask for a reconsideration is 60 days.
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jan, 2011
      Michelle
      My son is recieving ssi disability and i started doing odd jobs to support us since i am a single parent. When i looked on like at self employment i read you have to send in your tax returns so i just assumed when i got my tax return to send that in and they would adjust now i am finding out I may be penalized ..this is the first time this has happened do they usually take payment arrangements for overpayment thanks for your help
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jan, 2011
      Bill
      My reply to Ray on September 30, 2010, which is on this page, discusses how to notify the Social Security Administration of changes to a Social Security recipient's income. My original answer above discusses how to negotiate a settlement with the Social Security Administration if it overpaid you.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2010
    Donna
    If you filed a request for reconsideration for SSI and did not put that you wanted to continue to receive benefits while it was pending with the understanding that if it was denied they would have to be repayed but they continued to send the benefits then when they were denied you received a notice for repayment do you have to prove any of this or since it's SSI do you just not have to repay it?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Oct, 2010
      Bill
      It is my understanding the Social Security Administration is not in the habit of sending cash gifts to people. If the SSA believes it overpaid you, for whatever the legitimate reason may be, it has the right to ask or demand the recipient pay for it. You have notice there is a dispute between you and the SSA regarding your eligibility to receive benefits. With that knowledge, it would be wise for you to set aside those funds in a separate account should the SSA demand you return them. If the SSA never does demand the return of those funds, then you have a sum set aside for a rainy day.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2010
    Bill
    According to the Social Security Administration, "Report any changes that may affect your SSI as soon as possible and no later than 10 days after the end of the month in which the change occurred." Call (800) 772–1213, or call, visit, or write your local Social Security office to report the income. See the Social Security Administration Web pages Understanding Supplemental Security Income SSI -- Spotlight on SSI Telephone Wage Reporting, Understanding Supplemental Security Income SSI Income and Understanding Supplemental Security Income Reporting Responsibilities for details.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2010
    Ray
    How (and how often) do you report income to the SSA so that you don't receive overpayments and run up a big bill that you owe?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2010
    Bill
    I am unable to find a definitive yes or no to this question. Readers, if you have an answer to this question please respond below.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2010
    rcjc
    If you are on a payment arrangement to pay back the S.S.D.I. overpayment can they still legally take your tax refund or is intercepting your refund only done on individuals who do not make a monthly payment arrangement or do not keep their arrangement?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2009
    Bill
    The Social Security Administration has the option of withholding your overpayment from a Federal Income Tax refund and/or from any future Social Security benefits you may receive.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2009
    twankea
    i need to know if i owe the social security adminstration $5,120 can they take my 2009 federal tax refund to get the money back.
    4 Votes

    • 35x35
      Apr, 2011
      david
      They have said i was overpaid and have changed the amount and the "reason' i was overpaid over and over again. I have had several attempts waived but the most recent one they say no and took 9,000.00 out of my income tax return this year.They will do what they want when they want and even lawyers have told me i cant stop them.
      0 Votes