Overpayments: What To Do If You Get Benefits You Are Not Due

We pride ourselves on paying people the correct benefit amount on time every month.

But people will sometimes get an incorrect benefit payment amount. Many times such overpayments happen because beneficiaries fail to report events that can affect their payment amount. We produce three publications that provide lists of hings you need to report to make sure you are being paid properly. They are available free of charge by calling 1-800-772-1213, or you can find them at the Internet links indicated. For people with disabilities, the publication What You Need To Know If You Get Disability Benefits is at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10153.html. And SSI recipients can find their reporting instructions in What You Need To Know If You Get SSI at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/11011.html.

But what if you or someone you know does get benefits that were not actually due? When we discover that you have been paid incorrectly, we will send you a letter explaining the overpayment and telling you how much money you incorrectly received. The letter also outlines repayment options.

If you are currently receiving Social Security benefits, we generally will plan to withhold those benefits in full until the overpayment is recovered. If that would create a financial hardship, you are given 10 days to ask to have us withhold a lesser amount in monthly installments. On the other hand, you also can pay off the debt immediately by writing us a check for the full amount owed. If you are no longer receiving Social Security benefits, the letter asks you to repay the amount in full, but again, it also offers a monthly installment option.

If you currently are receiving SSI benefits, which are payments based on financial need, the overpayment letter explains that we will withhold 10 percent of your future SSI payments until the debt is recovered. If that would create a financial hardship, you have 10 days to request a different repayment schedule.

But both the Social Security and SSI overpayment letters also provide you with certain legal rights. If you disagree with our decision that you were paid incorrectly, you can ask for a review of your case. You have 60 days to request that review, and we will not stop or alter your Social Security or SSI payments while the review is underway. If you ask for a review, you obviously should be prepared to tell us why you think you were not paid incorrectly.

If you accept the fact that you received Social Security or SSI benefits you were not due, you have one other legal right. You can ask us to disregard the incorrectly paid benefits by filing for a “waiver” of the overpayment. A Social Security representative can explain all the waiver provisions to you.

For your convenience, all overpayment waiver and appeal forms can be found at the following Social Security website www.socialsecurity.gov/online/forms.html?#Other.