SSI Overpayments: Did you get a Notice of Overpayment from Social Security?
SSI Overpayments: Did you get a Notice of Overpayment from Social Security?
This article is for people who got a Notice of Overpayment from the Social Security Administration (SSA). A Notice of Overpayment is a letter that says you owe Social Security money. The notice might say that Social Security is going to take some of your SSI check to repay what you owe.
If the Notice of Overpayment is about an SSDI overpayment, you should look at the legal aid article on SSDI Overpayments instead.
This article can help you if all of these are true:
- you get SSI;
- Social Security sent you a Notice of Overpayment; and
- you think something on the noticeis wrong or you can’t afford to pay back the money.
Do not ignore the notice. If you think there is a mistake, contact Social Security right away and ask for an appeal form.
What can cause an overpayment?
You will have an overpayment if Social Security pays you too much money because they have the wrong information or not enough information about you. It is your job to make sure Social Security has the right information about you and that they get that information on time. Here are some things that can cause an overpayment:
- You don’t let Social Security know right away when you start working.
- You don’t let Social Security know right away each time your earnings change.
- You inform Social Security about changes, but they don’t put the information into their computer system.
- You earn more money than Social Security allows while you are collecting SSI benefits.
- You get married or your spouse moves in or out, but you don’t tell Social Security right away.
- You let someone put their vehicle, house, or money in your name.
- You have a bank account with more than just your name on it.
- You are in jail for more than a month.
- You are not disabled anymore but you keep getting benefits.
- You do not report a change (such as your address or living situation) to Social Security on time.
- You have more resources than are allowed.*
- You don’t inform Social Security right away about other money that comes into your household. For example:
- Your spouse gets a job.
- You get workers’ compensation or child support.
- You get money from a court case.
- Someone pays rent or heating bills for you.
- You get a loan without careful paperwork about repaying it.
*Social Security says I am over the resource limit. What does that mean?
Social Security has a limit on the things you are allowed to own while you are on the SSI program. The things you own are called resources.
These things don’t count as resources for SSI:
- one vehicle that you use,
- a house you own and live in, and
- personal belongings that you use.
Resources that do count are things like
- cash and bank accounts,
- land or a house you don’t live in,
- extra vehicles,
- antiques or jewelry you have because of their cash value, and
- things that belong to your spouse but are counted towards you (also called deemed resources).
The limit on resources that count for SSI is $2,000 for one person. That means you cannot have more than $2,000 in resources. You won’t qualify for SSI if your resources are too high when you apply.
If you get too many resources after you have been getting SSI, Social Security will say you were not eligible for the SSI program for the months when your resources were too high. You will have an overpayment for those months, and you may be cut off from the SSI program.
You can call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or go to www.socialsecurity.gov to find out what things you or your spouse are allowed to have when you are on SSI.
Social Security says I have unreported income. What does that mean?
Unreported income means that you worked or had other money come into your household but you did not inform Social Security (or they don't have any record that you informed them on time).
- Social Security counts income for the month you receive the money, not the month you earned it.
- Even if you work for only a short time, you must let Social Security know that you worked.
- You must let Social Security know each time the money you get in a month goes up or down.
You must report new income or changes in your income by the 10th of the next month.
If you had income or your income changed during this month:
You must tell Social Security about that income no later than this date:
To prove that you told Social Security on time about changes (in your income, resources, address, or household), this is what you should do:
- Write a letter to Social Security that explains what changed. Sign and date the letter. Make a copy of the letter and keep the copy for yourself.
- Make copies of any proof you have, such as paystubs, any checks you got, or something showing your new address, and include that proof with the letter.
- Send the original letter by certified mail with a return receipt requested. You must do this at the post office window. Keep the receipt from the post office in a safe place.
- Keep the return receipt, which is the signed post card that comes back to you in the mail showing that Social Security got your letter.
Social Security encourages people on SSI to work by not counting all of the money they earn against their SSI. The rules are complicated. Be sure to report all your earnings right away. Also report any expenses you run up in order to work that are caused by your disability.
You should talk to a certified work counselor for advice about working while on SSI.
You may find general information by going to Social Security’s website at www.socialsecurity.gov.
What can I do if there is an overpayment?
If you get a Notice of Overpayment, there are four things you can do:
- Ask for reconsideration of the overpayment if you don’t think you were overpaid or you think the amount is wrong. It is important to ask for reconsideration quickly – within 35 days of the date of the overpayment notice, if possible.
- Ask for a waiver if you agree that you were overpaid but you want to be excused from paying the money back.
- Ask for lower amounts to be taken out of your SSI check. You can use the budget part of the waiver form to show your financial hardship.
- Ask for expedited reinstatement. If Social Security removes you from the SSI program completely for your earnings but you are so disabled now that you cannot work at all (or you can’t work more than a couple of hours at minimum wage), you can ask for expedited reinstatement within 60 months. You should get up to six months of SSI while Social Security decides if you are still disabled. If you don’t get expedited reinstatement, you will need to reapply for SSI.
What are the time limits?
If you ask for reconsideration within 35 days of the date on the notice, Social Security won’t take money out of your SSI check while they are making a decision about your reconsideration request.
You must ask for reconsideration within 65 days of the date on the notice. If you ask within 65 days, Social Security should stop taking money out of your SSI check until they make a decision about your request.
If you have a good reason for asking for reconsideration after 65 days, explain your reasons to Social Security and send the form in late with your reasons on it.
You can ask for a waiver at any time. Asking for a waiver will also stop Social Security from taking money out of your SSI check while they are making a decision about your waiver request. You may want to wait to ask for a waiver until you find out if your reconsideration is denied.
What if I got a termination notice?
Sometimes when people have an overpayment, they also get a Notice of Termination, which is a notice saying your benefits will end. If you get one of these notices, you should contact Social Security to appeal the termination right away.
If you appeal a termination within 15 days of the date of the notice, your benefits should continue while Social Security makes a decision.
- To keep getting your benefits, you must file two forms with Social Security: an appeal form and SSA Form 795.
If you miss the 15-day deadline, you can still appeal up to 65 days from the date of the termination notice.
If you miss the 65-day deadline but you have a good reason for appealing late, explain your reasons to Social Security and file the appeal form late.
How to ask for reconsideration
To ask for reconsideration, fill out and file Form SSA-561-U2 with Social Security. On the form, explain
- why you think you have not been overpaid, or
- why you think the amount is wrong.
Attach a copy of your proof that you reported the income, resources, or change in your household or living arrangements. Save a copy of your proof for yourself.
On the form, you will have to say how you want the case to be handled. You can ask for a case review, an informal conference, or a formal conference.
- A case review means a Social Security worker will look at your file again and decide if you have to pay back the money.
- In an informal conference, you meet with a Social Security worker to go over your file. You’ll be able to explain what happened, and you can give Social Security new information about your situation. You can bring other people with you to help explain your case.
- A formal conference is more like a court hearing. You’ll present your case, and you can bring other people with you to help explain your case.
If your request for reconsideration is denied
If Social Security denies your request for reconsideration, you can ask for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). You must ask for the hearing within 65 days from the date of the reconsideration denial letter. Asking for an ALJ hearing will not stop Social Security from taking some or all of your check to repay what you owe.
If you haven’t requested a waiver yet, you might want to now.
How to ask for a waiver
To ask for a waiver, fill out and file Form SSA-632-BK with Social Security. This form is for asking Social Security to
- not collect (or waive) the money,
- make you pay back only some of the money (called a compromise), or
- set up a payment plan that you can afford.
To be granted a waiver, Social Security must decide that the overpayment was not your fault and that
- collecting the money would defeat the purpose of the SSI program, or
- be unfair.
You have a right to a personal conference before a decision is made about your waiver request. You have the right to look at your file with a Social Security worker who can answer your questions up to five days before the conference. You also have the right
- to bring someone with you to the conference,
- to testify yourself,
- to ask questions, and
- to show proof about the things you say.
To support your waiver request, you must show you did your best (considering your medical and any language or understanding problems)
- to give Social Security all the information it needed on time,
- to tell the truth, and
- to give back any payments that you should have known were wrong.
Tell Social Security if you made decisions based on what Social Security told you (decisions you would not have made otherwise). Also tell them if you get any other public benefits, such as cash assistance for a child or a grandchild. Let Social Security know your budget and if you have any unusual expenses. If Social Security denies your waiver request, it will use this information to decide how much they will take from your check each month.
If your waiver request is denied
If your waiverrequest is denied, you will need to appeal for a reconsideration of the waiver denial. This is the next step whether you had a personal conference or not. You have 65 days from the date of the denial notice to ask for reconsideration of the waiver denial.
If the reconsideration of the wavier denial is denied, you have 65 days from the date of the denial notice to ask for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Asking for an ALJ hearing on your waiver request will not stop Social Security from taking some or all of your check to repay what you owe.
If you are denied both reconsideration and a waiver
If you are denied both reconsideration and a waiver (with or without a personal conference), Social Security can begin taking money from your check. They will not take your whole SSI check. The most they can take each month is 10% of your total monthly income. But if you show on your budget that you cannot meet your current ordinary and necessary living expenses, Social Security can take as little as $1 per month to repay the overpayment.
Because overpayment law is complicated and appeals can be confusing, it is best to talk with a lawyer as soon as you can.
If you have very low income, call the Statewide Legal Services hotline at 860-344-0380 (Central CT) or 1-800-453-3320 (all other areas in Connecticut).