An overpayment occurs when the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) states that you received more social security or SSI benefits than you were supposed to receive
An overpayment occurs when the Social Security Administration (SSA) states that you received more social security or SSI benefits than you were supposed to receive. Here’s what you need to know to get the benefits you deserve.
What is an overpayment?
Social Security says I was overpaid – what should I do?
You can ask SSA to waive the overpayment by filing a Request for Waiver Form (SSA-632-BK) and/or you can ask SSA to reconsider because you do not think you owe part or all of the overpayment by filing a Request for Reconsideration Form (SSA561-U2). You can also access these forms Forms at your local social security office.
Is there a time limit for filing these requests?
Follow the time limits given in your Notice of Overpayment. Generally, you have only 60 days from the date of the Notice of Overpayment to file a Request for Reconsideration. If your request is late, tell them what “good cause” reason you have. However, you may file a Request for a Waiver at any time.
Who may have to pay back an overpayment?
- The individual who receives the disability benefit
- The individual’s spouse
- Others receiving benefits on the individual’s earnings record
- The estate of the individual or spouse if they are deceased
- An alien’s sponsor (SSI only) and
- A representative payee
How do I submit the forms?
If you want to file a Request for Reconsideration of the overpayment because you think you were not overpaid or that the amount SSA states is incorrect, it is best to submit this form either online, or in person. If you want to go in person and do not know where your local Social Security office is, call 800-772-1213, or go online to find out the location of the nearest Social Security Office.
If you want to file a Request for Waiver of the overpayment, it is best to submit the forms in person since there is no online option. Call 800-772-1213 or go online to find out the location of the nearest Social Security Office.
If something prevents you from submitting the forms in person or online, mail the forms to your local Social Security office and keep proof of mailing from the post office. Be sure to keep a copy of everything you give to Social Security for your records.
What do I have to prove in order for a waiver to be granted?
To have SSA waive the overpayment, you will have to show that:
- The overpayment was not your fault and
- That you cannot afford to pay it back.
Examples of “no fault” include that:
- you didn’t know you had to give SSA some information they claimed they needed
- you did report new information to SSA but SSA did not reduce your benefits and you thought you were receiving the right amount
- you did not know that the information you gave SSA was incorrect
- you thought the payments you received were correct
If SSA believes that you are without fault, then they decide whether or not you cannot afford to pay it back.
To have the overpayment waived you must show SSA that you cannot afford to pay back the overpayment. This can be because:
- You receive some sort of public assistance like SSI or
- Repaying the overpayment will put you into debt or make you unable to pay your ordinary living expenses. If you don’t receive public assistance or SSI, you will have to list all of your necessary expenses/bills on the waiver form to show that you can’t afford to pay Social Security back or
- Recovering the overpayment from you would be extremely unfair. For example, if you changed your position for the worse or gave up a valuable right because you relied on what Social Security told you, then that would be unjust. SSA says that this is “against equity and good conscience.”
What if the amount I owe is very little?
Social Security will waive overpayments of $50 or less. This is called the SSI $50 Rule. Where the overpayment is $1,000 or less and you file a request for reconsideration or waiver, Social Security will waive any collection of the over-payment (unless you were at fault in creating the overpayment). This is known as the SSI $1,000 Rule.
What if Social Security says that I have money in the bank or some property that I do not have or that is not valuable?
If you receive SSI, you are only allowed to have $2,000 in the bank or $3,000 if you are a disabled couple. You must show receipts or other documentation proving the money has been spent or is no longer available to you for some other reason. You cannot just give the money to relatives to hold for you. Remember to keep a copy of everything you submit to Social Security!
In the case of property (for example, owning a house in another country), you can provide documents showing the property’s value is lower than what Social Security claims.
What if I lose my Request for Waiver or Reconsideration?
If you disagree with the waiver decision, the next step of appealing is to file a Request for Reconsideration at your local SSA field office. (However, in some cases, you have a right to a conference first at your local SSA office.)
If the request for reconsideration of the waiver decision is denied, you can request a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). You must do this within 60 days of the date of the denial notice.
If you disagree with the ALJ’s decision, you can appeal the ALJ’s decision to the Appeals Council. After the Appeals Council, appeals are heard in federal court. Your time limit for filing each level of appeal is 60 days from the date of the denial notice.
What can happen after a final unfavorable decision?
- For SSI recipients, SSA will recover the overpayment by taking up to 10% of your SSI each month. For SSD recipients, SSA will take your entire check each month. If either creates a financial hardship on you, ask Social Security to take out less
- The Social Security Administration can make claims against you in civil court
- Your IRS tax refunds can be seized
- Credit reporting agencies can be notified
- Private debt collection agencies may be used to collect the debt (overpayment) from you
More Resources About Overpayments
The information in this document has been prepared by The Legal Aid Society for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. You should not act upon any information without retaining professional legal counsel.