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Wabanaki Legal News, Summer 2011

Pine Tree Legal has been able to help several tribal members who received Notices of Overpayments from Social Security. There are several things you can do about overpayments, but it is very important to take action quickly when you receive a Notice. It becomes harder for us to help if you wait. If you ignore the notice, SSA will start taking money out of your payments. Contacting SSA promptly can stop the collection of the overpayment until a decision is made by SSA.

If Social Security finds that you have gotten too much money in your disability or SSI check, they will send you a Notice of Overpayment. Sometimes an overpayment happens because you did not report a change in your income or household to SSA. Maybe you did not know that you were supposed to report the change. Or maybe you did tell SSA and they didn't record it. In some cases, you may have reported the change, but SSA delayed in decreasing your monthly check.

The first thing to do is read the Overpayment Notice carefully. Is the information on it correct? Notices from Social Security are often confusing. If you can't understand the Notice, contact us. After you have figured out what the Notice says, you have several choices:

  1. Ask for Reconsideration if you think the amount of the amount of overpayment is wrong or the reason SSA gives for the overpayment is wrong.
  2. Ask for a Waiver if you think Social Security is right about the overpayment but it was not your fault and you can't afford to pay the money back. Some of the reasons it might not have been your fault are:
    • You have trouble reading. You did not know what you had to report to SSA.
    • You have trouble remembering or understanding directions.
    • You believed you reported every change that might have caused an overpayment.
    • You were not told about the reporting requirement.
    • You applied for SSI a long time ago and do not remember the reporting rules.
  3. Ask for a Payment Arrangement if you think that the overpayment was your fault or you can afford to pay it back.

Automatic Waivers for Small Overpayments

SSA can automatically waive your overpayment if:

  1. The amount is $1000 or less.
  2. You did not cause the overpayment by making a false statement to SSA, and
  3. You request waiver

Making a Payment Arrangement

If you have lost all of your appeals or have decided not to appeal any further, you must pay the money back. Tell SSA that you want to repay it in small amounts each month that you can afford. Otherwise, SSA may automatically take your whole Social Security disability check or 10% of your SSI check. Usually you will have to pay back at least $10.00 a month. SSA tries to get the money back within 3 years. However, they cannot take more than 10% of your SSI check, even if it takes more than 3 years.

For more detailed information about dealing with overpayments, you can go to our website and read the article called “How to Handle Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Overpayments.”