What To Do When the Social Security Administration Says You Owe Money

What To Do When the Social Security Administration Says You Owe Money

Last updated: March 2006

What is an overpayment?

An overpayment is when the Social Security Administration (SSA) mistakenly sends you a benefits check when they should not or when they pay you more than their guidelines say they should.

What causes an overpayment?

Overpayments can be caused by many different events. Some examples are: 

  • Changes in your living situation
  • Getting married
  • Changes in your disability status
  • An increase in your income, or 
  • Returning to work

What is a Notice of Overpayment?

The overpayment recovery process starts when the SSA sends you a Notice of Overpayment. This notice must tell you:

  • The amount of the overpayment
  • A detailed, plain language explanation of the cause of the overpayment
  • Your options for paying the SSA back 
  • A complete statement of your rights to appeal this decision

What should I do if I receive a Notice of Overpayment?

Do not ignore the Notice of Overpayment! You have the right to challenge an overpayment, but there may be time limits. You must act quickly.

You have 3 options. They are:

  • Ask the SSA to reconsider the amount they claim to have overpaid, called a "Request for Reconsideration;"
  • Ask the SSA not to make you pay back the overpayment, called a "Request for Waiver;"
  • Ask the SSA to let you pay the overpayment back over time, rather than in one lump sum, called a "Payment Plan."

Request for Reconsideration

File a Request for Reconsideration (SSA Form 561-U2) if you do not think that the SSA made an overpayment or you think the amount is wrong. This will ask the SSA to calculate the overpayment amount again. If you file a Request for Reconsideration:

  • You must file within 60 days, but you should file earlier to stop collection efforts; 
  • File your request right away to stop money from being taken out of your benefits check; 
  • Say that you do not agree with the amount of the overpayment;
  • Ask that no money be taken out of your social security check until a final decision is made about the overpayment;
  • Use SSA Work Incentives including Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWEs).

You can ask for a Request for Reconsideration form from your local Social Security Office or call 1-800-772-1213. You can also get the Request for Reconsideration form online by clicking on the title below.

Request for Reconsideration (SSA Form 561-U2)

Request for Waiver

File a Request for Waiver (SSA Form 632-BK) if the overpayment was not your fault and you cannot pay it back. This asks the SSA to forgive the overpayment and not make you pay them back. If you file a Request for Waiver:   

  • You may file at anytime;
  • File your request immediately to stop money from being taken out of your benefits check;  
  • You must prove to the SSA that the overpayment was not your fault and that you cannot afford to repay the money; 
  • Ask that no money be taken out of your social security check until a final decision is made about the overpayment;
  • If you get Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the SSA will assume you cannot afford to repay the money. 

You can ask for a Request for Waiver form from your local Social Security Office or call 1-800-772-1213. You can also get the Request for Waiver form online by clicking on the title below.

Request for Waiver of Overpayment Recovery Or Change in Repayment Rate (SSA Form 632-BK)

 

 

 

 

Payment Plan

Try to work out a payment plan if you do not disagree that you received an overpayment. If you negotiate a payment plan:

  • Ask for a payment plan from your local SSA Office;
  • Suggest a monthly payment amount that you are sure you can afford;
  • File an Income and Expense Statement to show that this amount is the most you can afford to pay each month;
  • Ask that no money be taken out of your social security check until a final decision is made about the overpayment;
  • If you cannot afford to make one of your payments under the payment plan, contact the SSA right away to let them know.

Can I appeal SSA's decision?

Yes. Both the Request for Reconsideration and the Request for Waiver decisions can be appealed. Your rights to appeal will be listed on the decision notice you get from the SSA. The time you have to appeal the SSA's decision is limited, so you must act quickly.

Can I file both an appeal and a Request for Waiver?

Yes. You may file both an appeal and a Request for Waiver of the overpayment. You can file both at the same time or you can wait and file a Request for Waiver if you lose your appeal on the Request for Reconsideration.

Can Social Security begin to collect the overpayment if I appeal?

No. If you appeal an overpayment and/or ask for a waiver within 30 days, payment of your benefits will continue at the same amount. It will not be reduced for an overpayment until a final decision has been made. So be sure to file quickly.

How much can Social Security take out of my benefits to collect an overpayment?

If you are receiving any SSI benefits, no more than 10% of your monthly benefits can be taken out of your check each month. If you are only receiving other Social Security benefits, then Social Security may take your entire monthly check unless you can agree on a repayment plan with them. Social Security will want the overpayment repaid within 36 months, unless you can show that it would be too hard for you to pay it back in that amount of time.

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