Guide to Social Security Overpayment
Did you recently get a larger than usual Social Security check?
If the windfall was due to a Social Security overpayment, whether you’ll get to keep is dependent on a wide variety of factors.
In this guide on Social Security overpayment, our attorneys will tell you everything you need to know about what to do after getting a larger than expected check.
What is Social Security Overpayment?
Everyone who receives Social Security benefits is entitled to a monthly check for a set amount. The law defines overpayment as receiving more money in a month than outlined in your benefit documents.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) may be unaware of the overpayment, but once it finds out, you’ll receive a Notice of Overpayment in the mail. The Notice will state how much you were overpaid and that you need to refund the excess within 30 days.
What can cause an overpayment?
A Social Security overpayment can happen due to a handful of reasons. For instance, failing to report something that affects your eligibility, such as working despite a disability, can lead to an overpayment.
Some of the more common causes include:
- A change in income
- A change in marital status
- A change in disability status, such as no longer being disabled but still receiving benefits
- A change in living situation
- Having access to more resources than your allowable limit
- Failure to report a crucial change to the SSA
- A mistake by the SSA, such as incorrectly calculating your benefits due to incomplete information
And in some cases, an overpayment may simply occur due to reasons only the SSA can explain.
What are the Statute of Limitations of Social Security Overpayment?
The statute of limitations in this scenario refers to the amount of time the SSA has to request you pay them back for an overpayment. If the Agency fails to recoup the overpayment before the expiration of the statute of limitations, you can keep the funds and use it for whatever you want without consequences.
Currently, the SSA works with the statute of limitations dictated by administrative regulations. The applicable statute of limitations depends on the exact type of Social Security that was overpaid.
For example, the SSA typically doesn’t bother taking action to recover Social Security benefit overpayments that are over four years old. For Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the SSA rarely bothers pursuing recovery if the payment is over two years old.
However, please note that these are general administrative guidelines and not legal provisions. The US Congress in 2008 repealed the actual legal provisions for a statute of limitations regarding the recovery of Social Security overpayment.
Since the currently in use statute of limitations are merely administrative guidelines, the SSA can still pursue the recovery of an overpayment long after the expiration of the above timelines. Acting after the expiration of the above timelines is most likely to occur if the SSA suspects that an act of intentional fraud is the cause of an overpayment.
I received an Overpayment Notice, what should I do?
To bring an overpayment to your attention, the SSA will send you a “Notice of Overpayment.” It’s a written document that notifies you about the overpayment issue, stating the amount you were overpaid and that you must refund the overpayment within 30 days.
When you receive a Notice of Overpayment, the first and most important thing to do is to study the notice to determine whether the information within it is accurate. If you agree or disagree with the details of the notice regarding an overpayment, there are several ways you can go about resolving the issue.
The typical steps to resolving the issue include:
- Requesting a reconsideration
- Requesting a waiver
- Repaying in installments
You can pursue one of the above processes or all of them at once. That said, whichever option you choose to pursue, it’s best to do it quickly. Delaying can result in the SSA taking the overpayment out of your future checks.
Asking for reconsideration is an appeal to the SSA to take another look at your case. It’s the best step to consider if you believe that the reason for overpayment or the amount in the notice is wrong.
For this process, you have to submit an online reconsideration form or write to your local Social Security office a letter asking for reconsideration.
We recommend filing your request within 30 days of receiving the notice. Doing it within 30 days will prevent the overpayment from being taken out of your next check.
Based on your request, the SSA worker will review your file and decide whether you did receive an overpayment. You can provide evidence in the form of documents that support your claim. If your reconsideration isn’t successful, you can appeal it. Any amount taken from your future checks to repay the overpayment pending the appeal will be repaid to you if the appeal is successful.
If the contents of a Notice of Overpayment seem correct to you, you can avoid paying it back by asking the SSA to waive the overpayment. A waiver is most likely to be successful if the overpayment is not your fault, and you can’t afford to repay the money.
For example, if you didn’t report a change in your living situation or income to the SSA because you didn’t know you were supposed to, you could be eligible for a waiver. Your chances are even better if you did report the change, but the SSA didn’t record it.
Also, the SSA can automatically waive your overpayment if:
- The overpayment isn’t due to a false statement you made to the SSA
- The overpayment is less than $1,000
Making Repayment Arrangements
If you have to refund a payment, but can’t afford to repay it at once, you can inform the SSA that you’d like to make repayments in small amounts each month.
The SSA typically grants such requests, unless there’s evidence that the overpayment was due to fraud. In such a scenario, the SSA will settle the overpayment by withholding all of your Social Security benefits.
When paying back in installments, the smallest amount you can pay is $10 monthly, and you have to settle the overpayment within three years.
Need help with a Social Security Overpayment?
If you request a reconsideration or waiver and the SSA denies these items, Walker & Harp, P.L.L.C can help make things right.
Our Social Security disability attorneys have many years of experience assisting people like you get justice. We know the nuances of Social Security law and can provide quality representation to get you a quick resolution with favorable outcomes.
Contact our team for a free, no-commitment consultation to get all the guidance you need.