Receiving a Social Security overpayment letter can be quite upsetting — especially for individuals whose monthly benefits are their only income. Still, both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries will occasionally receive one in the mail.
Understanding How A Social Security Overpayment Can Happen
While these letters aren’t common, they typically show up when you fail to report changes that could affect your benefit amount. In most cases, these overpayment notices allege that the Social Security Administration (SSA) paid you too much money in benefits. Fortunately, the SSA’s calculations aren’t always correct, so you may not have to pay the entire balance due. Regardless of your individual situation, there’s still a process to follow after you receive one.
Three Ways You Can Respond to Social Security Overpayment Letters
Option #1: Pay Back the Full Social Security Overpayment Balance Within 30 Days
The most clear-cut response to an overpayment notice is to pay the amount requested within 30 days. The letter itself will provide your instructions on how to make the payment directly to the SSA as requested.
While this may be the simplest solution, it doesn’t account for the SSA’s potential miscalculations involving your monthly benefit amount. If the SSA made a mistake, it’s incredibly difficult to get your money back after the payment’s already processed.
Option #2: Submit a Request for Reconsideration Within 60 Days
You have 60 days to submit a reconsideration request, but you’re better off appealing it within the first 10 days. If you do, the SSA won’t make any balance recovery attempts until after reviewing your file. Waiting any longer gives the SSA time to begin their overpayment recovery process. This process usually involves reducing or eliminating your monthly benefits until you repay the full amount you owe. So if you’re just barely getting by each month, file your appeal during that initial 10-day window!
Here’s everything you need to know before you request a reconsideration from the SSA:
- You must understand exactly why the SSA believes they overpaid you. While your Social Security overpayment letter may list a reason why you owe it, it might be unclear to you. The best way to understand why you received this letter is to speak with someone at your local SSA office. In fact, you can ask to see your own file and information used to calculate your Social Security overpayment amount. We can also connect you with a disability attorney who can answer your Social Security overpayment questions for free.
- Once you understand why the SSA sent you this notice, request a reconsideration within 60 days. Along with the Request for Reconsideration Form 561, write a letter explaining why you believe this Social Security overpayment isn’t accurate. Also, make a copy of your overpayment letter to include with your reply and keep the original for your records.
- After submitting your appeal, you’ll typically wait 4-6 weeks to hear back from the SSA. If the SSA denies your appeal, schedule a free consultation with a disability attorney near you. Attorneys can review your documents and give specific, personalized advice on how to proceed.
Option #3: Request a Social Security Overpayment Waiver
Many disability advocates think you should always request a waiver from the SSA, especially for balances of $1000 or less. If approved, you may avoid paying back some or all of the total balance the SSA says that you owe. There’s no time limit to file form SSA-632-BK, but in order to get your Social Security waiver approved, you must:
- Convince the SSA that the overpayment wasn’t your fault. In other words, you must prove that you didn’t intentionally withhold information the SSA needs to accurately calculate your benefits. If you failed to disclose anything that would reduce your payments, even on accident, this step gets much, much harder. Changes that may result in overpayment include: Your marital or disability status, living situation, increased resources, and submitting incomplete or inaccurate information.
- Prove that paying this money back would cause you undue financial hardship. To do this, you must submit documentation detailing your income level and resources. (Some commonly used documents include wage statements, tax returns, bills, mortgage statements, grocery and rent receipts, etc.) If paying the money back puts you at risk for homelessness, the SSA will most likely approve your waiver application.
When All Else Fails, Request A Payment Plan
Even if you’ve exhausted every option listed above, you don’t have to pay the full amount back all at once. Instead, ask the SSA to withhold a certain amount from your monthly disability checks until you’ve paid off the balance. The SSA will reduce or stop your checks to recover the full refund amount unless you request a payment plan.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Still have questions about your Social Security overpayment letter? Click the button below now to find the right disability advocate who can offer you personalized help. You can schedule a free meeting to speak with an experienced disability advocate who will help you prepare your response.
Mandy Voisin is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of Girls of the Ocean and Star of Deliverance. As an accomplished content marketing consultant, mom of four and doctor's wife, Mandy has written hundreds of articles about dangerous drugs and medical devices, medical issues that impact disabled Americans, veterans' healthcare and workers' compensation issues since 2016.