The Social Security Administration (SSA) processes benefits for millions of people in Massachusetts and all over the United States through programs like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). With so many beneficiaries to serve, errors are probably inevitable, but it is also important for beneficiaries to provide the SSA with necessary information about changes in address, employment, or health condition. If a beneficiary receives more money from the SSA than they should, known as an overpayment, the beneficiary is responsible for repaying the excess amount to the SSA, regardless of who made a mistake.
Some overpayments result from the SSA’s errors, but the public rarely, if ever, knows how such mistakes might occur. A more useful analysis looks at how errors and omissions by SSDI beneficiaries can result in overpayments and how they can be avoided.
The first step is to keep track of all benefit payments received from the SSA, noting how often the SSA pays them and in what amounts. If you begin receiving benefit checks in a greater amount than before, but you do not receive any notice or explanation from the SSA, you should be cautious. It is better to catch a problem like this early, before an overpayment bill starts to build.
The other important step you can take to avoid overpayments is to report any significant changes in your living situation, health, or disability to the SSA as soon as possible, since any of these could affect your benefits. If the SSA determines that you have been receiving too much because of a change that you did not report, it may attempt to recover overpayment amounts retroactively.
Repayment of SSA Overpayments
If you are still receiving benefits from the SSA when it notifies you of an overpayment, it will withhold certain amounts from your benefits until the overpayment is repaid in full. In the event that you are no longer receiving benefits, the SSA expects repayment of the full overpayment amount within 30 days of receiving notice, unless you work out a repayment plan, request a waiver, or file an appeal. You might be able to work out an acceptable repayment plan with the SSA, which is often more interested in recovering some of the money it overpaid than in pestering you to recover the entire amount.
Requesting a Waiver, or a Change in Repayment Terms
The SSA allows beneficiaries who are responsible for repaying an overpayment, and who acknowledge that the overpayment should be repaid, to request a waiver or a modification of the rate of repayment.
A request for a waiver requires a beneficiary to prove that the overpayment was not their fault and that they cannot afford to pay back the amount without enduring significant financial hardship. There is no specific deadline or time limit for requesting a waiver.
A request for a change in repayment rate requires proof that the beneficiary is willing to repay the overpayment amount but is unable to do so at the rate established by the SSA. This request must be filed within 60 days of the original overpayment notice.
Challenging the SSA’s Claim of Overpayment
A beneficiary may appeal the SSA’s claim of an overpayment, as well as the denial of a request for a waiver.
Appealing the initial overpayment determination involves submitting a request for reconsideration within 60 days of receiving the overpayment notice. In most states, a request for reconsideration means that the claim will be reevaluated by a different SSA examiner. New Hampshire and several other states, however, do not process requests for reconsideration. Instead, a beneficiary must request a review by an administrative law judge (ALJ).
To appeal the denial of a waiver of overpayment of SSDI benefits, a beneficiary must request a hearing before an ALJ within 60 days of the denial.
What Happens If I Don’t Repay the SSA?
If you do not repay an overpayment as required, the SSA may collect any overdue amounts by seizing your federal tax refund or any future benefit payments. In some cases, it may be able to garnish your paycheck or seize non-exempt assets, just as in other debt collection situations. It can also report the debt to credit reporting agencies, which can do long-term damage to your finances.
Contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith online or at 1-800-773-8622 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation and get started on your SSDI claim.
More Blog Posts:
How to Apply for SSDI Benefits in Maine and Beyond, Social Security Disability Lawyer Blog, July 1, 2015
What is SSDI? An Overview for Residents of Massachusetts and Other States, Social Security Disability Lawyer Blog, June 24, 2015
Qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance, Social Security Disability Lawyer Blog, June 17, 2015
Photo credit: By Unknown or not provided (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.