A piece of paper that says Social Security Benefits

What to Do When Social Security Sends You an Overpayment

If you receive Social Security benefits and get a letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) telling you that you have gotten an overpayment, it can feel confusing and intimidating. But it is important to understand what the notice means, and the next steps that you could take.

What is an overpayment?

An overpayment is when you receive more money in a month than you should have been paid. And the amount of the overpayment is the difference in the amount you received and the amount of benefits you should have actually received.

Why might you get an overpayment?

Reasons you might get an overpayment include:

  • Your income is more than estimated
  • You no longer have a disability but continued to receive benefits
  • Your living situation changes
  • Your benefits are incorrectly calculated due to incorrect or incomplete information

How are you notified of an overpayment?

If you have gotten an overpayment, Social Security Administration will send a notice explaining the overpayment and asking for a refund within 30 days. You must receive written notice! SSA will not call you asking you for money.

The notice must include the reason for overpayment, the time period where there was an overpayment of benefits, and the amount of overpayment for each time period.

The overpayment notice must also include information about your rights and how to take next steps.

What can you do when you get an overpayment notice?

When you get an overpayment notice, you have 3 options:

  1. Challenge that you got an overpayment or the amount of the overpayment
    • File a Request for Reconsideration. Generally, the burden of proof is on the Social Security Administration to provide a logical explanation of why the overpayment happened and how it was calculated.
    • The request must be filed in writing, within 60 days. The form that should be used is Form SSA-561. The form can be submitted online using the SSA’s iAppeals system, by calling 800-772-1213, by certified mail with a return receipt, or in person at a local SSA office.
  1. Ask SSA to waive its right to collect the overpayment
    • In order to get a waiver to avoid repayment, you must be without fault in causing the overpayment and recovery would either defeat the purpose of the Social Security Act, or “be against equity and good conscience.”
    • You have the burden of proof to show that you qualify for the waiver by a preponderance of evidence.
  1. Try to negotiate a lower repayment amount
    • You can use Form SSA-634 to request a change in the repayment rate. For SSDI beneficiaries, there is no limit to how much to recoup. For SSI benefits, the Social Security Administration limits the recoup amount to just 10% of monthly benefits.
    • The decision made after the negotiation cannot be appealed.

If you are going to take one of these three steps, it is important to collect any evidence to support your case. You may consider hiring an attorney to help you with this process.

If you have questions about an overpayment, you can contact Triage Cancer’s Legal & Financial Navigation Program.

For more information about disability insurance, visit TriageCancer.org/DisabilityInsurance.

About Triage Cancer

Triage Cancer is a national, nonprofit providing free education to people diagnosed with cancer, caregivers, and health care professionals on cancer-related legal and practical issues. Through eventsmaterials, and resources, Triage Cancer is dedicated to helping people move beyond diagnosis.

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