Recently Carolyn W. Colvin, the acting commissioner of Social Security, released the following comment regarding recovery of debts owed to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that are 10 years old or older.
“I have directed an immediate halt to further referrals under the Treasury Offset Program to recover debts owed to the agency that are 10 years old and older pending a thorough review of our responsibility and discretion under the current law to refer debt to the Treasury Department.
If any Social Security or Supplemental Security Income beneficiary believes they have been incorrectly assessed with an overpayment under this program, I encourage them to request an explanation or seek options to resolve the overpayment.”
The SSA typically does a review of all cases to ensure that recipients are receiving the proper monthly benefits. However, like any business, there are times when the system becomes overwhelmed and falls behind on these reviews, and they do not catch the Social Security overpayment until several months, or even years in some cases, have passed. This results in the SSA overpaying you, and this means that you receive more in disability benefits than you are eligible. It does not matter if it is not your fault; they will hold you responsible to pay back the overpayment.
If you are a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipient, your SSI benefit amount is calculated on a monthly basis. Thus it is important to report any changes that occur in income or assets of the entire household on a monthly basis. Whether it is you, your spouse, or your child who is receiving SSI, the income or assets of every member of the household can affect an individual’s monthly SSI benefits.
If you are a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipient, only your income counts. This means that you only need to report your own income and no one else; however, when it pertains to your income activity, this means everything even pensions from retirement plans.
Cases have been reported where the recipient did not report their change in income and the SSA didn’t catch the Social Security overpayment for so many years that the recipient ended up being responsible for over $100,000 or more. That is a lot of money to owe the government. As such, it is so important to report any changes in your income on a monthly basis. If you return to work and receive SSI or SSDI benefits while you are working, you need to report this to the SSA as the SSA places the burden to report work activity on you. Should you fail to report this, you will be held accountable. If you report what is asked of you, there is a slim to none chance that you will find yourself responsible for any overpayment.
You have two options. Option one is to appeal the overpayment. You can argue that overpayment never occurred by showing the SSA that they are miscalculating the overpayment. To do this, you need to show there was no change of income or that any money that did come in to the household is not income that can be counted by the SSA against your SSI or SSDI benefits.
Option two is to ask for a waiver. By asking for a waiver, you are agreeing that an overpayment occurred but you are arguing that you should be excused from having to pay it because it is not your fault that the overpayment occurred and you cannot afford to pay it. To support the second portion of this statement, you will need to provide all your bills and costs for your necessities.
At the end of the day, being held responsible for a Social Security overpayment issue can be avoidable. Report any changes of income or work on a monthly basis to the SSA, keep any supporting documentation that can help support you did everything the SSA asked of you, and be diligent about staying on top of your finances.
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