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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.

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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

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48 Comments

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  • CC
    Oct, 2014
    charles
    My wife and I have just dealt with this There seems to be a fine print statement somewhere that says " IF Over payment is the fault of SS then payment arrangements can be made or overpayment waived" Giving you wrong information is not considered their fault We went to them 4 times and called twice trying to stop the wife from getting her check because she kept working. Every time we were told don't worry about it when we get a copy of your taxes we will adjust it or let you pay it back at 10% or you can file an appeal that you can't pay We have been fighting this for two years .They took all of her check back without warning and not just the overpayment but every penny paid. We told them it was hard to pay back so went to get an appeal form and were told we do not qualify as it was our fault she was over paid it was not their fault we got the wrong info They will not even allow her enough to pay her Medicare we have to pay it by check When we ask them to allow enough to pay it we were told No. Pay it the best way you can or not at all If we look at her record on line it shows they are deducting Medicare from her check yet making us pay for it as well We have not found an attorney that will handle this without a fee up front and we are not allowed to file the appeal They will not accept it Fortunately my VA disability kicked in and now we would not qualify under the appeal because of income Be very careful what SS tells you
    0 Votes

  • HJ
    May, 2014
    Haywood
    When legal counsel is billed at hundreds of dollars an hour, it seems both cruel and ridiculous to continually suggest that people should talk to an attorney in a storm of financial catastrophe. Especially when lawyers oft times are only successful in collecting their fees. As for legal aid? Well, speaking of ridiculous.
    0 Votes

    • BA
      May, 2014
      Bill
      We are actually a totally free service to consumers, and it costs quite a bit to pay our team to answer these questions. We share our opinions with the goal of being helpful. There are many questions that we receive that require competent, licensed legal advice. It would not only be improper, but it would be illegal, for us to offer legal advice when it is solicited.
      0 Votes

  • KD
    Feb, 2014
    Kathleen
    How do you find someone who has experience dealing with Social Security disputes on overpayments?
    0 Votes

  • TG
    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

    • BA
      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.
      0 Votes

    • TG
      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

  • DV
    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.
    1 Votes

    • BA
      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

    • RS
      Mar, 2014
      randy
      This happened to my sister and I this year. SSA went back 37 years and took our refund , both state and federal. I contacted the SSA and requested copies of the checks my father must have cashed. the agent said that was not possible because it was 37 years ago. They also said that a notice was sent to my fathers address back then and received no reply. Never were we contacted until now. When asked why the SSA continued to send my father checks after we turned 18, he had no answer. Great way to bring back the death of my Mother. Waiting for forms from Sen. Franken's office, so they can look into it.
      0 Votes