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Social Security is a massive program that benefits almost 70 million people. The Social Security Administration (SSA) works round the clock to ensure it sends the right amount of money to the right person. However, given the size and complexity of the program, overpayments can happen. Overpayment here means the SSA paying more money to a beneficiary than he or she deserves.
Although it is a mistake on SSA’s part, the SSA takes it very seriously and can ask the beneficiary to refund the extra amount. If Social Security overpays you as well, you must not take it lightly but try to return the extra amount as soon as possible. Otherwise, you may face consequences. In this article, we will discuss what to do if Social Security overpays you.
There could be several reasons why you may get more money in Social Security than you deserve. These reasons, in turn, depend on the type of benefits you receive, such as old-age benefits, disability benefits, survivor benefits, etc.
You may also be overpaid if you take up a new job while collecting Social Security benefits but fail to inform the SSA. If your disability status changed and you got back to work, but you continued to receive Social Security Disability Insurance, then you could also be asked to return the extra benefits.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients may receive extra money for a number of reasons, such as providing inaccurate information, an increase in income and others.
In all, overpayment usually occurs because a beneficiary fails to notify the SSA of a change that could impact the benefit amount. There are also cases when a beneficiary proactively informed the SSA, but the SSA failed to make changes in its system, resulting in overpayment.
If you have been overpaid, you will receive a notice from the administration. This notice will inform you when you were overpaid, why you were overpaid, how much extra you received, how you can return it, and what your appeal and waiver rights are.
If you receive such notice, you must respond quickly. It is important that you read the notice carefully and verify the included details.
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If you believe you have been overpaid by the SSA, and you agree to SSA’s overpayment claims, then you have 30 days plus five mailing days to respond to the agency.
If you fail to respond, the SSA will withhold your entire benefits 30 days after it notifies you of the overpayment. Your benefit payment will start once you request the SSA for a lower withholding amount and the agency approves your request.
For SSI recipients, the agency starts withholding 60 days after it notifies the beneficiary of the extra amount. The agency usually withholds 10% of the maximum monthly benefit rate. SSI recipients can even request the SSA to withhold less than 10%, or pay back more than 10% per month.
Going forward, if you no longer receive SSI but get Social Security, you can continue with the agency withholding 10% of your monthly benefits.
If you are not receiving benefits any more, you need to contact the SSA to set up a repayment plan for you. Alternatively, you can repay the extra amount via a check within 30 days of the overpayment notification. You can pay the money online if the notice includes online payment instructions.
What Are Your Appeal And Waiver Rights?
If you don’t agree with the SSA’s overpayment notice, you have the right to appeal against it. You may disagree with the claim that you were overpaid, or disagree with the overpayment amount.
If you disagree with the amount, you can lodge a reconsideration request, asking the agency to look again into your overpayment notice. You need to fill out form SSA-561 online, or call the SSA at 800-772-1213 to request reconsideration.
If you file the request within 30 days of receiving the notice, the agency won’t withhold your benefits until it reaches a decision.
On the other hand, if you believe that overpayment is not your fault, or it’s unfair to ask you to repay, or you can’t afford to pay it back, you can request a waiver. Separately, to request a change in the amount you need to repay each month, you need to fill out form SSA-634.
According to the SSA, it reviews every waiver request to determine the repayment ability of the applicant. If, in its review, the SSA finds that it can’t offer a waiver, then it may offer flexible repayment options, including a repayment option as low as $10 per month.
Visit the SSA website to get more information on overpayments. You can also call +1 800-772-1213 (Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.) or +1 -800-325-0778 if you’re deaf or hard of hearing. Assistance is available in English and several other languages, and you need to tell the representative that you want to pay back the overpaid benefits.
How To Ensure You Don’t Get Overpaid
If you are an SSI and SSDI recipient, you need to report your work and wages within the first six days of the calendar month. You must report your work and wages every month to ensure the SSA has accurate information on you.
You can use your My Social Security account, the SSI Wage Reporting app, telephone wage reporting or report the wages in person at the local Social Security office.
If you are a Social Security recipient, you need to regularly notify the SSA of any change in your status, or other factors that could impact your benefits.