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Social Security Announces Four Key Updates to Address Improper Payments

March 20, 2024 • By

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Last Updated: March 20, 2024

Social Security Administration SealSocial Security Commissioner Martin O’Malley today announced he is taking four vital steps to immediately address overpayment issues customers and the agency have experienced. Commissioner O’Malley testified before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging and the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance (excerpt):

“For 88 years, the hard-working employees of the Social Security Administration have strived to pay the right amount, to the right person, at the right time. And the agency has done this with a high degree of accuracy over a massive scale of beneficiaries. But despite our best efforts, we sometimes get it wrong and pay beneficiaries more than they are due, creating an overpayment.

When that happens, Congress requires that we make every effort to recover those overpaid benefits. But doing so without regard to the larger purpose of the program can result in grave injustices to individuals, as we see from the stories of people losing their homes or being put in dire financial straits when they suddenly see their benefits cut off to recover a decades-old overpayment, or disability beneficiaries attempting to work and finding their efforts rewarded with large overpayments. Innocent people can be badly hurt. And these injustices shock our shared sense of equity and good conscience as Americans.

We are continually improving how we serve the millions of people who depend on our programs, although we have room for improvement, as media reports last fall revealed. We have also embarked upon a deep dive into the extent of the overpayment problem at Social Security, the root causes of these administrative errors, and the steps we can take as an agency to address these individual injustices.

Our deeper understanding of the complexities of this problem has set us on the following course of action:

  1. Starting next Monday, March 25, we will be ceasing the heavy-handed practice of intercepting 100 percent of an overpaid beneficiary’s monthly Social Security benefit by default if they fail to respond to our demand for repayment. Moving forward, we will now use a much more reasonable default withholding rate of 10 percent of monthly benefits — similar to the current rate in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.
  2. We will be reframing our guidance and procedures so that the burden of proof shifts away from the claimant in determining whether there is any evidence that the claimant was at fault in causing the overpayment.
  3. For the vast majority of beneficiaries who request to work out a repayment plan, we recently changed our policy so that we will approve repayment plans of up to 60 months. To qualify, Social Security beneficiaries would only need to provide a verbal summary of their income, resources, and expenses, and recipients of the means-tested SSI program would not need to provide even this summary. This change extended this easier repayment option by an additional two years (from 36 to 60 months).
  4. And finally, we will be making it much easier for overpaid beneficiaries to request a waiver of repayment, in the event they believe themselves to have been without any fault and/or without the ability to repay.

Implementing these policy changes — with proper education and training across the people, policies, and systems of the agency — is an important but complex shift. And we are undertaking that shift with urgency, diligence, and speed.

I look forward to working with Members to discuss ideas that could address the root causes of overpayments.”

Social Security launched a comprehensive review in October 2023 of agency overpayment policies and procedures to address payment accuracy systematically. Learn about Overpayments and Our Process on our website. These changes are a direct result of the ongoing review.  Additionally, the agency recently announced it is working to reduce wage-related improper payments by using its legal authority to establish information exchanges with payroll data providers that will significantly reduce the number of improper payments, once implemented.  The agency will continue examining programmatic policy and making regulatory and sub-regulatory changes to improve the overpayment process. More details on these updates will be shared as they become available.

To watch the testimony and read Commissioner O’Malley Statement for the Record, visit Keeping Our Promise to Older Adults and | Senate Committee On Aging.

 

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  1. Very U.

    I applied in November 2023. My application was for ssdi I had enough work credits and the local office in Port Angeles refused to process it until February of 2024. It was changed to an ssi application due to lack of work credits. Somehow I lost 7 credits. Fast forward to July, I was scheduled for a telehealth CE. I attended and the doctor was verbally abusive due to becoming irritated at my wifi speed. She requested that I go sit in my car in a parking lot to use public wifi. Mind you it was 90 degrees that day. I reported her to the state and called the case adjudicator to let her know what happened. Fast forward another week, I get a letter telling me to attend another telehealth consultation with the same doctor. This is a disgusting example of how people with mental disabilities are treated when they don’t have resources or a support system.

    Reply
    • Very U.

      This right here is why the suicide rate is so high for people with post traumatic stress. They don’t want to die, they just want life to change but can’t figure out how. Being treated like this repeatedly makes a person see how worthless they truly are in this sick world.

      Reply
  2. Gary B.

    How does this 10% option work, if there is no actual overpayment? Would this affect my appeal which has not been resolved in over 7 months? As of October 2023, I have continued to send an overabundance of documentation to prove that there was a massive error on SSA’s part in incorrectly determining that an overpayment exists in my case. I have also filed an appeal and have yet to receive a decision or a direct answer as to the status of my case, as every time I call, someone tells me something different. There is no excuse for the blatant avoidance in fixing my case and answering multiple requests for information from my senator, when you have all of the information in my file which I have provided multiple times now. There is no overpayment for my particular case and the documents that prove this are sitting on somebody’s desk in the processing center for over 6 months; as of my most recent phone call today, nothing has been addressed or rectified. I also continue to have my requests to speak with a supervisor both in person at my local office and on phone calls rejected. Meanwhile, my four minor children are suffering for this error every day. Cases where there is concrete proof that SSA made an error need to be expedited and I need to have someone with supervisor status contact me immediately, since nobody will ever allow me to speak with a supervisor when requested. Any help with getting this resolved is massively appreciated.

    Reply
  3. Jimmy

    Hello, I am in the same situation where when I filed this paperwork for my retirement at age 63 and still working. It never says that I have to meet a certain income to be approved for SS retirement. So when I emailed someone about that from SSA, that person told me that I qualified for it. Now they said that I have been overpaid and they want their money back. This is a bait, hook and switch tactic and needs to be addressed. Someone in your dept does not know what they are doing and probably accepts a ,out of people to get them enrolled in this program. Now I am cash strapped and have bills to pay which without my SSA I am stuck. This is wrong and immoral to us.

    Reply
    • Barb

      I agree why should we have to pay for someone else’s mistakes ? I have found that communication and knowledge is lacking with social security employees. It needs to be investigated!

      Reply
      • Bill R.

        Have been assisting a friend who is dealing with this “over payment fiasco”.
        She has repeatedly requested information on “how over payment calculation was performed”; after 4-6 months she has yet to receive that info. This is a travesty to the millions of citizens of this country to navigate thru this morass of bureaucracy. SSA is an abysmal albatross around the neck of these individuals.
        Please cease utilizing these funky “robot” exercises they are a nuisance. Looking forward to your reply

        Reply
        • S.D.

          We’re sorry to hear about your friend’s situation, Bill. Your friend can ask for an explanation and for options to resolve the overpayment by calling us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Or she can contact her local Social Security office and ask to speak with a supervisor during her next call or visit. Her appeal and waiver options are explained in our Overpayments factsheet. For more information, check out our Frequently Asked Questions. We hope this is resolved soon.

          Reply
    • S.D.

      We’re sorry to hear about your situation, Jimmy. If you were overpaid due to your earnings from work, our new policy allows us to collect 10% of your total monthly Social Security benefit to recover most overpayments. You’ll find more information about repaying overpaid benefits and how to ask us for help here.

      You can work and receive retirement benefits but there are earnings limits set by law. For this reason, we asked you about your expected earnings in your retirement application. If you’re working and are younger than your full retirement age during all of 2024, we must deduct $1 from your benefits for each $2 you earn above $22,320. The year you reach your full retirement age, we will deduct $1 from your benefits for each $3 you earn above a higher earnings limit up until the month you reach full retirement age. There is no earnings limit once you reach full retirement age. For more information about working and getting benefits, visit our Frequently Asked Questions. We hope this helps.

       

       

      Reply

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