As per the SSA, an overpayment transpires when you receive a payment from the agency that exceeds the amount you were supposed to receive. The cause of an overpayment differs based on the kind of benefits you obtain, such as old-age, survivors, disability or other types. It could be that you neglected to inform the agency about a new job you started while receiving Social Security retirement benefits, which resulted in an alteration to your income.
Alternatively, your disability status might have changed, and you resumed working, yet you were still receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (a program for individuals with disabilities who are unable to work). Supplemental Security Income recipients (a program for seniors and people with disabilities who earn low to no income) can also experience overpayments due to several factors, such as a surge in income or inaccuracies in the data provided to the administration.
The primary causes of overpayments in Social Security
Frequently, overpayments happen when a beneficiary neglects to inform the Social Security Administration of alterations that would impact their benefit amount. Alternatively, a beneficiary might have been diligent in reporting the changes, but the administration failed to register them in its system promptly and continued disbursing the same benefit amount every month.
- A roommate either moved in or out (this is applicable only to SSI beneficiaries)
- A child moved out
- Commencing work
- Receiving higher monthly income than the prior estimate
- Commencing additional benefits
- Obtaining child support
- Receiving income exceeding the limit allowed for SSI beneficiaries
- No longer being disabled
- Being convicted of a crime
How Can I Determine If the SSA Has Overpaid Me?
As per the SSA (PDF), you or your representative payee (the individual responsible for collecting your benefits if you are unable to do so) will receive a notification from the administration, which will specify the overpayment amount, the reason for the overpayment, the options to repay the overpayment, and the details of your appeal and waiver rights.
It is crucial to take prompt action upon receiving the notice. Carefully review the contents of the notification and verify the accuracy of the information such as the dates and amounts. Continue reading for further guidance on the necessary steps to take, whether the information is correct or incorrect.
What are the Steps to Rectify an Overpayment?
Once you accept the SSA’s overpayment allegations, you have 30 days along with an additional five mailing days to reimburse the agency. If you are currently receiving Social Security benefits, the administration will hold back the entire benefit amount 30 days after notifying you of the overpayment. However, you may request a reduced withholding amount, which the SSA may grant upon approval.
For individuals receiving SSI benefits, the agency usually withholds 10% of the highest monthly benefit rate. However, the SSA allows you to request a lower withholding amount if the 10% is unaffordable for you. The withholding typically begins 60 days after notifying the SSI recipients. Additionally, you can opt to repay at a rate greater than 10% each month.
If you are no longer receiving SSI but continue to receive Social Security benefits, the SSA permits withholding 10% of your monthly Social Security benefits.
What Happens If I’m No Longer a Social Security Beneficiary?
In case you are no longer entitled to receive any benefits, you can get in touch with the SSA to establish a repayment schedule or make a payment through a check within 30 days of receiving the overpayment notice. In case you wish to challenge the SSA’s assertion of overpayment, you are entitled to exercise your appeal rights. This can happen if you disagree with the agency’s assessment that you were overpaid or if you believe the amount of overpayment is incorrect.
An appeal is your opportunity to request the SSA to review your overpayment notice again. You can request a reconsideration if you believe that the amount stated in the notice is wrong or the reason for the overpayment is incorrect. To appeal, you can obtain the form SSA-561 (PDF) from the SSA website or call their office at 800-772-1213.
If you believe that the overpayment was not caused by your actions and you are unable to afford the repayment or if you think the repayment is unjustified, you can file form SSA-632 (PDF) instead. On the other hand, if you want to modify the repayment amount, you can complete form SSA-634 (PDF).
What steps can I take to avoid overpayments in the future?
The Social Security Administration advises SSI and SSDI recipients to report their work and wages within the first six days of each month, and to do so consistently. This will ensure that the benefit amount you receive reflects your current earnings accurately. You can report your wages through various methods, including online through your My Social Security account, using the SSI Wage Reporting app (if you receive SSI), or by telephone wage reporting. Alternatively, you can take your pay stubs to your local Social Security office and report in person.
To avoid overpayments, it’s crucial for non-SSI and non-SSDI Social Security beneficiaries to keep the administration informed about any changes in their work status, income, or any other factors that could affect their benefit amount. This can be done by contacting the SSA directly or through the My Social Security account. It’s important to provide accurate and up-to-date information to prevent any potential overpayments.