Surviving an Alleged Overpayment
You received a written notice from the Social Security Administration [“SSA”] which claims that you were overpaid Social Security Disability [“SSD”] benefits. This may happen
by mistake or because you did not report a change to SSA.
For example, you may not have told SSA that your Workers’ Compensation [“WC”] lost income benefit increased or that you have returned to work. In some cases, you may have reported the change but SSA failed to decrease or stop your monthly check promptly.
We rarely represent someone in these circumstances, however, our experience is that most people can challenge an overpayment without having to hire a lawyer.
The written “Notice of Overpayment” will tell you how much SSA claims that you were overpaid. They will tell you to send the money back in 30 days.
Don’t panic! The first thing to do is read the Notice carefully. Is the information on it correct? Are the amounts and dates correct? Try to figure out if you were really overpaid the amount SSA says. SSA makes mistakes too.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
After you have figured out what the Notice says, there are several different ways to deal with it. Here are your choices:
Ask for Reconsideration. This means you want SSA to look at your case again, either by looking at your file or by meeting with you in a conference or hearing. Ask for reconsideration if you think the amount of the overpayment is wrong or the reason SSA gives for the overpayment is wrong. Here is a link to the Request for Reconsideration form: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/online/ssa-561.pdf
Ask for a Waiver. If you agree that you were overpaid, you can still ask SSA to waive it so that you don’t have to pay it back. Ask for a waiver if you think that the overpayment was not your fault and you can’t afford to pay the money back. Here is a link to the Waiver of Overpayment form: http://www.ssa.gov/online/ssa-632.pdf. You need to provide detailed information about your income and expenses before SSA will waive some/all of the amount you were overpaid.
To prevent SSA from collecting the alleged overpayment right away, BE SURE TO DELIVER TO A LOCAL SOCIAL SECURITY OFFICE THE COMPLETED FORMS WITHIN 30 DAYS FROM THE DATE OF THE NOTICE OF OVERPAYMENT. To keep your benefits while you are going through this process, BE SURE TO DELIVER TO A LOCAL SOCIAL SECURITY OFFICE THE COMPLETED FORMS WITHIN 10 DAYS FROM THE DATE OF THE NOTICE OF OVERPAYMENT.
Ask for a Payment Arrangement. Do this if you think that the overpayment was your fault or you can afford to pay it back. You can tell SSA that you want to pay the money back a little at a time.
Whatever you decide to do, act promptly! Do not just put the notice aside. If you ignore the notice, SSA will start taking money out of your future checks.
HOW CAN YOU CHALLENGE A DECISION THAT YOU WERE OVERPAID & OWE THE MONEY TO SSA?
If SSA decides—after evaluating your request for reconsideration and waiver–that you were overpaid and owe money to them, you can appeal that decision to an Administrative Law Judge [“ALJ”]. You are entitled to a hearing to determine whether you were overpaid and, if so, whether you are required to pay back some (or all) of the amount in dispute.
If you disagree with the ALJ’s decision, you may ask for a review of the decision by the Appeals Council (“AC”) of SSA. If you disagree with the AC’s decision, or if the AC decides not to review your case, you may bring a civil action in a Federal Court.
We wish you well with the overpayment process.