Overpayment owed to Social Security Administration
On my website and on this blog, I've discussed overpayment situations a number of times. Well, I recently reconnected with an old high school and college friend and, guess what? He's on disability (he has a particularly severe case of spina bifida as well as some other health problems) and has had his own overpayment situation.
How did he incur his overpayment from social security? I'm not quite sure of all the details (reconnecting after 20 years, I didn't really want to pry too much), but, like most situations, it went like this. He started working part-time to supplement his finances. He reported this to social security. He never heard anything back from the local social security office, or any other office. The disability checks kept coming and he kept working. Two years later, he received a notice in the mail informing him that he owed X thousands of dollars to the social security administration.
How did my friend react? Well, unfortunately, I think he reacted like a lot of people do. Which is to say, he was angry and afraid. He was angry because, from his point of view, he had done the right thing. He reported to social security the fact that he had started working.
Employees of the social security administration might respond "well, he shouldn't have kept the disability checks he was being sent". My response (and remember, I am speaking as a former social security disability examiner) is this: is it reasonable to expect that a disability benefit recipient would know what SGA is (substantial gainful activity, i.e. the monthly earnings amount above which a person is no longer eligible to receive disability benefits) or when their earnings are above the acceptable limit? Of course not. Disability benefit recipients do not know disability program budgeting procedures any more than I know veterinary science.
Other social security administration employees might respond with "well, we practically beat people over the head with all the information we send out regarding how important it is to report work and earnings." To this I say, I don't think the social security administration does an effective job of this. If they did, there wouldn't be so much confusion on the issue. And frankly, my friend's story is very similar to dozens of other stories I've heard. And here are the key ingredients.
1. He got a job.
2. He reported the fact that he was working to social security.
3. He never heard back from social security.
4. A long time after, he received an overpayment notice.
Who really dropped the ball here? I'd say that the social security administration did.
Now, what should you do if you ever receive an overpayment notice from social security?
1. Immediately contact the social security administration to find out more information.
2. If you believe the overpayment is unjustified, ask for this form: Request for Waiver of Overpayment. Fill it out, return it, and if it gets denied, appeal it (you can actually have the matter brought before an administrative law judge, the same type of judge who adjudicates social security and ssi disability claims).
3. If you believe the overpayment is unjustified, you may also wish to ask for a continuation of benefits while you appeal. You must request this continuation within ten days of receiving the overpayment notification. This will allow you to keep receiving your disability check while you try to have the overpayment waived. But be warned--if you elect to have your benefits continued and are not successful at having the overpayment waived, you will have to pay back the "continued benefits" (so you may want to think this one through).
4. If you believe the overpayment is justified, try to make a payment arrangement. In some cases, you can get the repayment amount very very low (its not unheard of to be given a ten or twenty dollar repayment amount per month).
Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog
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Social Security Disability SSI and Pain
Social Security Disability Lump Sum