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Overpayments made in big sums by SSA

It’s not unusual for many SSDI recipients to attempt to return to work. Most workers understand that they need to notify the SSA that they are working, but according to new reports, even if beneficiaries return to work and earn too much money to receive benefits they often continue to receive overpayments for months or even years. Unfortunately, once the SSA realizes they have made a mistake and overpaid the claimant, the claimant may owe tens of thousands of dollars to the agency.

What causes overpayments?

The SSA understands that there are critical failures in the system, but according to the Government Accountability Office, which oversees the Social Security Administration, much of the problems are due to backlogs of disability applications and budget constraints. Due to these issues it takes longer than ever for the SSA to take notice of the overpayments to beneficiaries who no longer qualify for SSDI.

How big is the problem? According to reports from the SSA, they have made an estimated $1.3 million in overpayments in just the last two years. Admittedly, some of the overpayments are made to individuals who are intentionally committing fraud within the system, but a large number are actually made to innocent claimants who did not realize that they were receiving overpayment or who have tried to stop the payments and have been unable.

The SSA has noted that they are working on the problem. "We think that they need to devote more resources to this," said Steve Lord, director of forensic audits and investigative services at the GAO. "Right now getting people off the [disability] rolls is secondary -- they have to balance their resources between getting people off the rolls and getting people on the rolls."

Problem: Increased workload and decreased resources

At issue is the substantial loss of employees. In fact, the SSA claims they have lost an estimated 11,000 employees since 2011, but the number of SSDI and SSI applicants has also skyrocketed, due in large part to the aging population and decreased employment opportunities. Given these considerations, the SSA claims they have had to “prioritize our workloads given our limited budget and resources."

How does the SSA deal with overpayments?

After overpayments are identified, the SSA sends notice to the individual. Individuals have several options available to challenge the overpayment request such as filing a reconsideration. There are several reasons the SSA may waive the overpayment (i.e. the overpayment is not your fault), but it can be quite a fight. Appeals can also be made if your first request for a reconsideration is denied, but an appeal is often a very lengthy process if you don't have anyone to help you.

What if the SSA won’t waive your overpayments? You will have to work out an overpayment repayment plan. If you are currently getting SSDI benefits the SSA can simply garnish your disability payments. If you are working they have the legal right to garnish not only your wages but also tax refunds. The debt can also be reported to the credit bureaus.

So what do you do if you have notified the SSA that you are working but they continue to send you SSDI payments? You can keep the extra money in a separate account until you get everything worked out with the SSA.
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