The Disability Law Center

 

 

 

SSI Overpayments: What You Can Do When Social Security Claims  You Were Paid Too Much SSI 

  

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

  

 

  

Prepared by the Disability Law Center

11 Beacon Street, Suite 925

Boston, MA 02108

617-723-8455

1-800-872-9992

www.dlc-ma.org

February 2005

 


Introduction

 

This booklet lets you know your rights when the Social Security Administration tells you that they have paid you too much SSI money and ask you to pay the money backB in other words, that you have an overpayment.

 

If Social Security sends you a notice saying they paid you too much SSI money, you have legal rights that protect you. You have to take steps to fight the overpayment and protect your money. It is very important that you respond to the notice from Social Security.  Ignoring this kind of notice will not make the problem go away.  This booklet will tell you what you can do when you get an overpayment notice and help you decide the best way to respond.

 

What is SSI?

 

SSI is a program that gives a monthly cash benefit to people with disabilities who qualify.  Only people with very little money qualify for SSI.   The amount of SSI you get depends on the situations in your life, including, how much money you have coming into your household and who you live with.  When you are on SSI, Social Security will, from time to time, review your case to make sure that you have been getting the correct amount of SSI. 

 

What is an overpayment?

 

When the amount of SSI you have received is more than the amount you should be legally getting, there is an overpayment.  It is called an overpayment because you have been overpaid, or paid too much.  For example, if you received $500 of SSI in a month but you were only supposed to get $400 that month, you would have a $100 overpayment. Sometimes when Social Security reviews your case they find out that you have been paid more SSI than you should have.

 

How does an overpayment happen?

 

SSI overpayments happen because the amount of SSI money you should be paid can go up or down if certain changes in your life take place. Here’s a list of some of life changes that can affect your SSI:

 

        you divorce, separate or remarry

        you return to work

        you are working and the amount you are earning goes up

        you begin to share your home or apartment with another person

        you are hospitalized

        you inherit money or property

        you get money from a court case or settlement

        you begin to receive a retirement pension or other type of disability benefit

 

Overpayments can also happen because Social Security makes a mistake and pays you the wrong amount of benefits.  Even if Social Security made a mistake, such as computer mistake or a mistake by an employee, Social Security will still ask that you pay them back.

 

How do I know I have an overpayment?

 

Social Security must tell you in writing that you have an overpayment. They do this by sending a letter with the name "Notice of Overpayment."  Social Security must send you this letter before they can start taking money from your SSI check to pay Social Security back.  This notice will have a date on it and should tell you many things:

 

        how much Social Security believes you have been overpaid,

        how the overpayment happened,

        why the overpayment happened,

        how you can pay back the overpayment, and

        your rights to appeal the overpayment and ask for a waiver of the overpayment.

 

 

What should I do when I receive the Notice of Overpayment?

 

Read the notice and look at the reasons why Social Security said they paid you too much SSI.  You may want to have an advocate read the notice to help you understand it.  Keep the notice in a safe place - you may need to look at it again and anyone who helps you with the overpayment will need to see it.

 

You have choices about how to respond to the overpayment.  The main choices are:

 

(1)   Appeal the overpayment if you think it is wrong and that Social Security did not pay you too much SSI or did not overpay you as much as they said they did.  You can also appeal if you do not understand how the overpayment happened. 

 

(2)   Ask for a waiver of the overpayment, which means that you agree that Social Security did pay you too much SSI but you don’t think you should have to pay it back.

 

(3)   Both !appeal and ask for a waiver.

 

There is a lot more information about how appeals and waivers work a little later in this booklet. 

 

Doing nothing is not a good option.  Not responding to the overpayment notice will not make it go away.  If you do not respond the notice, Social Security will start taking some of your SSI check to pay back the overpayment.  On the other hand, if you respond quickly, Social Security will not start taking any of your SSI to pay back the overpayment.  This is explained more later in this booklet.

 

What is a Request for Reconsideration?

 

The appeal of an overpayment is called a Request for Reconsideration.  An appeal is a way to tell Social Security that you think they are wrong about the overpayment - that you do not agree with the amount of the overpayment or you think there was no overpayment at all.  You can also file an appeal if you do not understand or if Social Security did not explain to you, how the overpayment happened. 

 

When should I ask for an appeal or Request for Reconsideration?

 

        Social Security made a mistake counting your earned income.  You may have work expenses related to your disability or other deductions that Social Security did not count.  A lowered amount of countable earned income can lower or even cancel out an overpayment.

 

        Social Security did not give you an explanation that you could understand of why the overpayment happened.

 

        You do not agree with the facts used by Social Security to say that the overpayment happened. 

 

How do I file an appeal or Request for Reconsideration?

 

You can appeal the overpayment by filling out a form called a Request for Reconsideration and filing it at your local Social Security office.  You can get the form from any Social Security office, by calling Social Security and asking for one, or on Social Security’s website www.socialsecurity.gov. 

 

The Request for Reconsideration form is only one page and is easy to fill out.  On the form, check the box that says “Informal Conference” if you want to have a face-to-face meeting with Social Security about the overpayment and your appeal.  Social Security will help you fill out the form if you ask them to.  You can file the Request for Reconsideration in person at your Social Security office or you can send it in.  Either way, keep a copy of it. 

 

Is there a deadline for filing a Request for Reconsideration?

 

YES.  You must file the Request for Reconsideration at your local Social Security office within 60 days of when you get the "Notice of Overpayment."  Social Security assumes that you got the Notice of Overpayment within 5 days of the date on the notice unless you can show that you got it later.   So, to figure out the deadline for filing the appeal, look at the date on the notice and add 65 days (60 day appeal period plus 5 days for you to get the notice).  For example, if the date on your notice is September 4, 2004, the deadline for filing the appeal would be November 9, 2004.

 

If you do not meet this 60-day deadline, you may lose your right to appeal the overpayment. But, if you have a very good reason missing the 60-day deadline, you may be able to file the appeal late using the good cause standard. 

 

How do I keep Social Security from taking money out of my SSI check until the Request for Reconsideration is decided?

 

You need to act quickly.  Social Security can start to take money out of your SSI check to collect the overpayment 30 days after they send you the Notice of Overpayment.  So, if you file your Request for Reconsideration before those 30 days are up, Social Security should  not start taking money from your SSI check.  If Social Security made a mistake and started taking money out of your check before the 30 days are over, you can get the money back.

 

Even if you don’t appeal within the first 30 days and Social Security starts taking money out of your SSI to collect the overpayment, they have to stop if you file the Request for Reconsideration within 60 days of the date on the Notice of Overpayment.  The only difference between filing within 30 days and filing within 60 days is that after the first 30 days, Social Security will start taking money out of your SSI to collect the overpayment. 

 

Once you file the Request for Reconsideration - if it is within the 60-day deadline or filed late for a good reason - Social Security will stop collecting on the overpayment until the appeal is decided.  If you lose the appeal, Social Security will again start taking money out of your SSI to collect the overpayment.

 

How much can Social Security take out of my SSI check to pay back an overpayment?

 

        The most Social Security can take out of your SSI check to collect the overpayment is 10% of your total monthly income.  Here are some examples of how the 10% rule works:

 

     If your only income is SSI of $564/month, then the most Social Security can take out of your check is $56.40/month, which is 10%.

 

     If you work and earn $500/month and you also get $357/month in SSI, your total monthly income is $857/month.  10% of $857 is $85.70, so $85.70 is the most Social Security can take out of your SSI each month.

 

What happens when Social Security gets my Request for Reconsideration?

 

If Social Security had started taking money out of your SSI to collect the overpayment, they should stop the collection when they get your Request for Reconsideration.

 

If you asked for an Informal Conference on the Request for Reconsideration form, Social Security will set up a time for you to come into the office and meet with a Social Security worker to explain your side of the story.  At this Informal Conference, you can ask Social Security to explain to you why and when the overpayment happened. 

 

You can also bring in papers that show why Social Security was wrong about the overpayment.  The types of papers that can help depend on why Social Security said you were overpaid.  Here are some examples:

 

        If Social Security thinks you made more money at work than you actually made, you might bring in pay stubs or receipts for services or equipment you needed to be able to work. 

 

        If Social Security was counting your spouse’s income but you are now divorced, you would bring in the divorce papers. 

 

        If Social Security thinks you had too much money in the bank, you would bring in your bank statements.  

 

If you did not ask for an Informal Conference, Social Security will make a decision on your appeal by looking at the papers in your file and any papers you give them to show they are wrong about the overpayment. 

 

When will Social Security make a decision about the Request for Reconsideration & how will I know what the decision is?

 

It sometimes takes a long time for Social Security to respond to a Request for Reconsideration in an overpayment case, but you can be sure that Social Security will, eventually, make a decision about your appeal. It might be a good idea to call Social Security and check on the progress of your request. Social Security tells you its decision in a letter called a Notice of Reconsideration.  There are three things Social Security can decide to do:

 

        Agree with you that there is no overpayment or that the overpayment is a lower amount than what Social Security first said it was.  This is called allowing the Request for Reconsideration

 

        Lower the amount of the overpayment but not as much as you think it should be lowered.

 

        Not change the amount of the overpayment at all.  This is called denying the Request for Reconsideration.  If the request is denied the overpayment amount you owe is not changed and you are responsible for paying Social Security back the money. 

 

The Notice of Reconsideration should explain the reasons for Social Security’s decision and tell you about your rights.

 

What can I do if my Request for Reconsideration is denied?  Do I get another appeal?

 

YES.  If your Request for Reconsideration is denied and you still think Social Security is wrong about the overpayment, there is another appeal you can file.  This appeal is called a Request for Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge. 

 

How do I file this appeal, the Request for Hearing?

 

To request a hearing, you need to fill out a form called a Request for Hearing and file it at your local Social Security office.  You can get the form from any Social Security office, by calling Social Security and asking for one, or on Social Security’s website www.socialsecurity.gov.

 

The Request for Hearing form is only one page and is easy to fill out. Social Security will help you fill out the form if you ask them to.  You can file it in person at your Social Security office or you can send it in.  Either way, keep a copy of it. 

 

Is there a deadline for filing a Request for Hearing?

 

YES.  You must file the Request for Hearing at your local Social Security office within 60 days of the when you get the notice that your Reconsideration was denied.  Social Security assumes you got the notice within 5 days of the date on the notice.  If you do not meet this 60-day deadline but you have a very good reason missing the deadline, you may be able to file the appeal late.

 

How do I get ready for the hearing?

 

Hearings are usually held at a Social Security hearing office called an Office of Hearings and Appeals.   Social Security will send you a notice with the date, time and place of the hearing at least 20 days before the hearing.  It is a good idea to go review your file at the hearing office at least 2 weeks before the hearing so you know exactly what the Judge will be looking at.  There are copy machines at the hearing offices that you can use for free to copy your file. 

 

If you have new papers or evidence to prove your case that aren’t in your file, take or send them to the hearing office.  Always keep copies.  It is best to try to get new evidence to the hearing office before the day of the hearing so it will be put in the file.  But if you can’t get it there early, you can still bring it to the hearing.

 

Think about your reasons for claiming that the overpayment is wrong.  Think about what evidence there is to support your argument.  Evidence can be in the form of documents, witnesses who will back up your claims, and what you have to say at the hearing.  You might want to make notes for you so you don’t forget to make all the points you want to make. 

 

You do not have to have an attorney or an advocate at the hearing.  If you would like to be represented you should contact an advocate, legal services or community action program in you area.

 

What happens at the hearing?

 

The hearing is really your chance to explain to the Judge what happened and make your best case for why the overpayment is wrong.  Social Security hearings are different from regular court cases in that there is no one representing Social Security at the hearing.  The Judge is there to review all the evidence and make a decision based on the law.  He or she is not on one side or the other.

 

The Judge runs the hearing and has an assistant who will tape record it.  The hearing is private.  No one is allowed in the hearing room other than the Judge, the assistant, you, your advocate if you have one, and your witnesses if you have any. 

 

Social Security hearings are not formal like in court, but you will be asked to take an oath to tell the truth.  The Judge will ask you questions about the overpayment and your appeal and will let you explain your case.  If you have witnesses, you will be allowed to ask them questions at the hearing.  The Judge will also be allowed to ask them questions.

If there is some evidence that you weren’t able to get in time for the hearing, you can ask the Judge for extra time to get that evidence in.  Judges will usually give 2 to 3 weeks after the hearing to get in new evidence.  It is always best to have all your evidence by the time of the hearing. 

 

When will the Judge make a decision about the appeal and how will I know what the decision is?

 

Social Security will send you the Judge’s written decision on your appeal.  Sometimes it only takes 3 to 4 weeks to get the decision, but it often takes longer.  It could take 2 to 4 months, sometimes even longer than that. 

 

If you win your appeal, the decision is called a Fully Favorable.  If you lose your appeal, the decision is called an Unfavorable.  If you win some part of your appeal but lose some part, the decision is called a Partially Favorable. A Partially Favorable decision would be if the Judge decided that part of your overpayment was wrong but not all of it.

 

What happens if my appeal is denied at the hearing?

 

If the Judge denies your appeal, you can ask the Social Security Appeals Council to review the Judge’s decision.  The Appeals Council will only review the papers in Social Security’s file and the tape of the hearing with the Judge.   There is no new hearing at the Appeals Council, which is in Virginia.  You do not need to go to Virginia.  The Appeals Council will only look to see if the Judge made serious mistakes in your case. 

 

To ask the Appeals Council to review the Judge’s decision, you need to fill out a form called a Request for Review of Decision/Order of Administrative Law Judge.  You can get the form from any Social Security office, by calling Social Security and asking for one, or on Social Security’s website www.socialsecurity.gov.  If you don’t have the form, you can write a letter to Social Security asking for a review by the Appeals Council.

 

The Request for Review form is only one page and is easy to fill out. Social Security will help you fill out the form if you ask them to.  You can file it in person or by mail at your local Social Security office or you can send it to the Appeals Council in Virginia.  Either way, keep a copy of it.  The Appeals Council’s address will be in the Judge’s decision.

 

You must file the Request for Review within 60 days of the when you get the Judge’s written decision.  Social Security assumes you got the decision within 5 days of the date on the decision.  If you do not meet this 60-day deadline but you have a very good reason missing the deadline, you may be able to file the Request for Review late using the good cause standard.

 

As with other Social Security appeals, you do not need the help of an advocate to file this appeal.  Along with the Request for Review form you may want to write a letter to the Appeals Council telling them why you think the Judge’s decision is wrong.  If you have new evidence you want the Appeals Council to look at, you should send it with your Request for Review. If you need more time to send in evidence, you must ask for it in writing when you file your Request for Review.

 

The Appeals Council will do one of three things with your Request for Review:

 

        Reverse the Judge’s decision and decide that you win your appeal. This is very rare.

 

        Send your case back to the Judge for a new hearing because the Judge made a serious mistake.  This is called a Remand.

 

        Deny your Request for Review.

 

It can take a very long time for the Appeals Council to make a decision. It may be a good idea to call your local Social Security office and check on the progress of your request.

 

What happens if the Appeals Council denies my request?

 

If the Appeals Council denies your Request for Review you can appeal to the United States District Court.  You do not need an attorney for this appeal, but it is very hard to do on your own.  It is best to try to get an attorney to help you with an appeal to Court.  The deadline for filing an appeal in Court is 60 days from the date you get the Appeals Council’s decision.  Social Security assumes you get the decision within 5 days of the date on the decision.

 

There is hope even if you lose your appeal.  If your appeal of the overpayment is denied and you still have an overpayment, there is another step you can take to protect your SSI money: the waiver.  Read the next section to learn about waivers.

 

What is an overpayment waiver?

 

The last section of this booklet talked about how to appeal an overpayment if you think Social Security was wrong about it.   This section deals with what you can do if there really was an overpayment, but you want to change what Social Security does about getting the money back.  

 

If you agree that the overpayment happened and that the amount of overpayment claimed by Social Security is correct, but you want Social Security to not collect or make you pay back the overpaid money, you can ask for a waiver of the overpayment.  In other words, you can ask Social Security to waive recovery of the overpayment or the forgive the debt.

 

How do I ask Social Security for an overpayment waiver?

 

To ask Social Security not to collect on the money you have been overpaid you fill out a form called a Request for Waiver of Overpayment Recovery or Change in Repayment Rate. You can get the form from any Social Security office, by calling Social Security and asking for one, or on Social Security’s website www.socialsecurity.gov.  After you fill out the form, you need to file it at your local Social Security office.  You can file it in person or you can send it in.  Either way, keep a copy of the form. 

 

The “Request for Waiver” form is longer and harder to fill out than the “Request for Reconsideration.”  As a person who gets SSI, you will not need to fill out the part of the form that asks about your household income and expenses.  If you need help filling out the form, you can contact an advocate or legal services office.  You can also ask a worker at your local Social Security office to help you fill out the form.  It is important to complete the form as well as you can and honestly.

 

What happens after I file the waiver request?

 

Social Security will review your request for waiver and any documents you give them that show why they should grant your waiver request.   If Social Security cannot approve your waiver request by looking at the papers alone, you get a chance to meet face-to-face with someone from Social Security to talk about your case.  This meeting is called a Personal Conference

 

At this Personal Conference, you can ask Social Security to explain to you how the overpayment happened and why they do not want to give you the waiver.  The person from Social Security who you meet with will not be the same person that decided you had an overpayment in the first place.

 

The Personal Conference is a chance for you to explain to Social Security why they should waive the overpayment.  You can bring in papers that support your waiver request.  For example, you might bring in copies of reports you made to Social Security about your work to show that you were not at fault in causing the overpayment.  You can also bring witnesses who will back up what you say to Social Security.

 

It is important that you go to Personal Conference.  You may take a friend or advocate with you to it.   If you cannot make the Personal Conference when it is scheduled, Social Security will set up a new date for it.  

 

If do not show up for Personal Conference after it has been scheduled twice, and do not have a good reason for not showing up, Social Security will  make a decision on your waiver request by looking at the papers in your file.

Will Social Security take money out of my SSI while I am waiting for a decision on the waiver?

 

Filing the request for a waiver stops Social Security from taking money from your SSI to pay back the overpayment.  Remember that Social Security can start to take money out of your SSI check to collect the overpayment 30 days after they send you the Notice of Overpayment.  So, if you file your waiver request before that 30 days are up, Social Security will not start taking money from your SSI check.  If Social Security made a mistake and started taking money out of your check before the 30 days are over, you can get the money back.

 

Even if you don’t ask for a waiver within the first 30 days, whenever you file your waiver request, Social Security will stop taking money out of your SSI.  Social Security will not start taking money out again until they make a decision on your waiver request.

 

Is there a time limit for filing a waiver request?

 

NO.  Unlike the appeal (Request for Reconsideration) which has a 60-day deadline, a request for an overpayment waiver may be filed at any time.  There is no deadline for filing a waiver request.  It may be filed after you file an appeal and after Social Security makes a decision on the appeal.  Even though there is no time limit for filing a waiver request, remember that if you file within 30 days of the overpayment notice, Social Security will not start taking money out of your SSI to pay back the overpayment

 

How does Social Security decide whether or not to waive the overpayment?

 

Social Security uses a 2-part test to decide if they will approve your request for a waiver of the overpayment.  The 2 things you need to show to get your overpayment waived are:

 

1)     you were not be "at fault" in causing the overpayment, and

 

2)     you are unable to pay back the overpayment, or it would be unfair for Social Security to try to collect the money that you were overpaid.            

 

You have to prove both of these things to get the overpayment waived.   Proving one or the other is not enough.  If Social Security approves the waiver, the overpayment will not disappear from your SSI records but Social Security will not ask you to pay the money back.

 

How does Social Security decide if I was at fault in causing the overpayment?

 

The first thing you must prove to get the overpayment waived is that you were not at fault in causing the overpayment.  In deciding if you are at fault, Social Security has to look at the all facts and circumstances surrounding your overpayment.  Some of the things Social Security must take into account are:

 

        your understanding of the need to report to Social Security changes and events - such as going to work or getting married - that might affect your SSI benefits,

 

        what you did to report these changes and events to Social Security,

 

        whether you knew about the changes and events that should have been reported to Social Security,

 

        whether you knew or should have known that you got SSI payments you weren’t supposed to get, and

 

        your ability to understand and follow the rules about reporting changes, considering your physical and mental condition, age, education, and ability to communicate in English. 

 

How does Social Security decide if I meet the second part of the waiver test?

 

Proving you were not at fault in causing the overpayment is the first step in getting the waiver, but there is a second step.  In the second step, you have to show one of the following things: 

 

(1)     You cannot afford to pay back the overpayment.  This means that you have so little money, you are not able to pay all of your regular bills and pay back the overpayment.  For example, if you had to pay back Social Security, you would not be able to buy food, pay your rent, or pay your utility bills. 

 

If you are still getting SSI benefits when you ask for the waiver, Social Security assumes that you cannot afford to pay back the overpayment.  If you are on SSI, you do not need to give Social Security any other information about your income and expenses.  You only need to prove that you were not "at fault" in causing the overpayment.

 

(2)     It would be “against equity and good conscience” for you to have to pay back the overpayment.  This means that it would be extremely unfair for Social Security to ask you for the money back.  Here are some examples of cases that might be against equity and good conscience:

 

        You were getting too much SSI but you thought you were getting the right amount and you made a change relying on the higher amount.  For example, you moved into a new apartment at a higher rent because you thought that your SSI payment was correct.  

 

        Someone from Social Security gave you the wrong information in answering one of your questions and the overpayment happened because you relied on that wrong information.  For example, a Social Security worker told you that you could have up to $3000 in the bank and still get your SSI.  The real limit is $2000.  You kept $2800 in the bank for a year and got an overpayment for that whole year.

 

If paying back the overpayment would be against equity and good conscience, Social Security does not look at your finances (income and expenses).

 

You only need to prove one of these things to meet the second part of the waiver test.  But remember, you can only get a waiver if you also show that you were not at fault in causing the overpayment.

 

 

 

Is there a special rule for getting a waiver of a small overpayment?

 

YES.  If your overpayment is $500 or less and you ask for a waiver, Social Security will usually approve it automatically.  That’s because the amount of overpayment is so small that it would cost Social Security more to try to collect it than to waive it. 

 

What happens if Social Security denies the waiver?

 

There are three possible decisions Social Security can make on your waiver request:

 

        Grant the request and waive the whole overpayment.

 

        Deny the request and not waive any of the overpayment.

 

        Grant the waiver in part and deny it in part.  This might happen if you reported some of your work and Social Security decides you were at fault for some of the overpayment but not for the part of it that happened when you reported your work. 

 

If your request for a waiver of the overpayment is denied, in whole or in part, you can appeal the denial by filing a Request for Reconsideration.  In this Request for Reconsideration, you are telling Social Security that you think they were wrong to deny your waiver.  This appeal is saying something different from the Request for Reconsideration you may have filed earlier to appeal the existence or amount of the overpayment.  

 

You must file the Request for Reconsideration appealing the waiver denial within 60 days of when you get the notice that the waiver was denied.  Social Security assumes that you got the notice within 5 days of the date on the notice.  If you do not meet this 60-day deadline but you have a very good reason missing the deadline, you may be able to file the appeal late using the good cause standard. 

 

You can get the Request for Reconsideration form from any Social Security office, by calling Social Security and asking for one, or on Social Security’s website www.socialsecurity.gov.  The form is only one page and is easy to fill out.  Social Security will help you fill out the form if you ask them to.  You can file it in person at your Social Security office or you can send it in.  Either way, keep a copy of it. 

 

If the Request for Reconsideration on the waiver is denied, you still have all the same appeal steps that you have when you are appealing the overpayment itself.  Those steps are:

 

        Request for Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge

 

        Request for Appeals Council Review

 

        Appeal to United States District Court

 

See pages 10 -14 of this booklet to find out about these appeals.  The important thing to remember about appealing when your request for a waiver is denied is that the deadline for all the appeals is 60 days from when you get the notice of Social Security’s decision.

 

How does Social Security collect the overpayment if I am still on SSI?

 

Sometimes, after you appeal the overpayment and ask for a waiver and go through all your levels of appeal, you still have an overpayment.  Then the issue becomes how Social Security will get the money back.

 

If you are still on SSI, Social Security will collect the overpayment out of your benefits.  The most Social Security can take out of your SSI check to collect the overpayment is 10% of your total monthly income.  Here are some examples of how the 10% rule works:

 

        If your only income is SSI of $564/month, then the most Social Security can take out of your check is $56.40/month, which is 10%. 

 

        If you work and earn $500/month and you also get $357/month in SSI, your total monthly income is $857/month.  10% of $857 is $85.70, so $85.70 is the most Social Security can take out of your SSI each month.

 

 

Social Security will take this money out of your SSI check until the overpayment is all paid off.

 

What if I can’t afford the 10% deduction?

 

If Social Security starts taking money from your monthly SSI checks and you have a hard time paying for the basic things you need (rent, food, utilities, clothing), you can ask Social Security to take less money out of your SSI check.  Social Security can change the amount of money that is taken out of your SSI check to an amount that is easier for you to pay. You can ask Social Security to reduce the amount taken out of your check by writing a letter, making a phone call or showing up in person at the Social Security Office.  There is a form that you must fill out and return to the Social Security office so that Social Security will lower the amount of money taken out of your check to pay back the over-payment. Social Security is usually very helpful and will agree to lower the amount that is being taken out of your check.

 

How does Social Security collect the overpayment if I am not on SSI anymore?

 

If you are no longer on SSI and you have an overpayment, Social Security cannot collect the overpayment by taking money out of your SSI checks, but they will find other ways.   Some of the other steps Social Security can take to collect the overpayment are:

 

        taking your tax refund

        taking some part of your SSDI check

        reporting the overpayment to credit and collection agencies

        taking some part of your work wages

 

Social Security cannot take any of these steps without giving you a written notice and a chance to respond first.  Be sure to read and save all the notices you get from Social Security. 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

If Social Security says that you have an overpayment, there are many things you can do to protect yourself.  You have rights.  You can appeal the overpayment if you think Social Security is wrong about it.  You can ask for a waiver of the overpayment if you agree that there is an overpayment but you think you should not have to pay Social Security back.  Or you can do both.

 

The important thing to remember is that you can only protect your rights if you take action.  Read carefully all notices Social Security sends you.  Pay attention to dates and deadlines for filing appeals.  Keep copies of everything you send or take to Social Security.  Ask for help if you need it.


 

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