Social Security Overpayments
Nuts & Bolts
This tool is aimed at benefits planners who are helping clients with overpayment notices. Even so, if you have received an overpayment notice, you can follow these directions on your own, or with a planner.
Causes of Overpayments
Work can create an overpayment if one or more of these things happen:
- The recipient delays or fails to report wages to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
- SSA delays or fails to process wage reports.
- SSA delays or fails to process work incentive information.
What to Do If Social Security Says There Is an Overpayment
Do not ignore an overpayment notice. If you do nothing, SSA will start to collect the overpayment from their benefits. You have three choices: appeal it, ask for a waiver, or request a payment plan.
Choice #1: Appeal the Overpayment
You can file an appeal if you think that:
- There is no overpayment, or
- The overpayment amount is wrong.
SSA calls this a Request for Reconsideration. The form you need is Form SSA-561-U2, Request for Reconsideration (PDF). On the form, write why you think they were not overpaid or why you think the overpayment amount is wrong. You can submit evidence of work incentives with your Request for Reconsideration.
The deadline for filing an appeal is 60 days from the date on the overpayment notice. If you miss the deadline, you will not be able to appeal the overpayment in the future.
Choice #2: Request a Waiver of the Overpayment Amount
You can request a waiver if you can show that:
- The overpayment was not their fault, and
- They cannot afford to pay it back.
SSA calls this a Request for Waiver. The form you need is Form SSA-632-BK, Request for Waiver of Overpayment Recovery (PDF). When deciding fault, SSA must consider the recipient’s disability, age, education level, and ability to understand and follow SSA rules. Give SSA proof of any barriers when filing the waiver request.
You can request a waiver at any time, even if SSA has started collecting money.
Choice #3: Request a Payment Plan
Ask your client how much they can afford to repay. Ask your local SSA office for a payment plan for that amount. SSA can agree to plans to pay as little as $10 per month. The form you need is Form SSA-634, Request for Change in Overpayment Recovery Rate (PDF).
If things change and they can no longer afford the agreed upon payment plan, contact SSA right away to change the plan.
Helpful Tips for Handling an Overpayment Notice
Here are some simple tips to keep in mind:
Tip #1: Don’t Delay
File the appeal, waiver, or payment plan request right away to stop SSA from taking the entire check. If SSA denies the appeal or waiver request, then SSA will ask the client to pay them back.
Tip #2: How to File
File all forms and papers with your local SSA office using one of these methods:
- In-person and ask for a receipt
- By fax and keep the fax confirmation page
- Online and print the submission page
Tip #3: Keep Copies
Keep a copy of the papers and proof of filing in the case file.
What to Expect after Your Appeal or Request
If you appeal or ask for a waiver, ask SSA for a Personal Conference. This is a chance to meet in person to review the SSA file and talk about the overpayment. These meetings can also be by phone if that is easier for the client. At the appeal level, SSA can reduce the overpayment all the way to $0. At the waiver level, SSA can waive the client’s responsibility to pay all or part of the overpayment. If you ask for a payment plan, SSA can set a new amount to collect (as little as $10 per month).
You can appeal any of these SSA decisions. If SSA denies any request, SSA should send a notice with appeal rights. Review carefully for any deadlines. Contact your local Legal Services or Legal Aid program to see if they can help with overpayment appeals. You can also ask local pro bono projects and law school clinics for help.
If SSA denies an appeal, you can always request a waiver or payment plan.
If SSA denies a waiver, you can always request a payment plan.