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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. Sammy D.

    This happened to my son, who was a minor at the time. He was on SSI in the early to mid 90’s and I was his payee. When the SSA changed their eligibility rules, they deemed him ineligible and wanted to terminate his benefits. I appealed because I knew the troubles that he was having where still the same troubles that he had always had. HE didn’t change, THEY did.

    I hired an atty to appeal, and the night before the hearing he dropped us because he supposedly was moving out of state, so they ruled against us.

    I thought that was the end of it. They cut him off, and I never heard another word about it.

    Fast forward to 2023, and when he went online to order a replacement social security card, THAT’S when we found out that there was an overpayment on his account. We went straight to our local office to ask where this had come from, and why in ALL of these years, NO ONE ever sent a letter to us, or a phone call or anything, to notify us of this overpayment, and the woman simply said, “They just didn’t bother to look for him. They would have just waited for him to file for retirement, and would take it then.”!

    I was floored! So, had he not been ordering a new card, we would never have known! I even tried to get the overpayment switched to ME, since I was the payee, not him, but they wouldn’t do it, so I have just been paying as much as I can on it, and so far not really making a dent, as I am disabled myself, and on a fixed income, so it’s just horrible that they do this to people. Someone could have let me know before now, and I could have paid on it better when I was working, and it might be paid off by now, since it’s been 35 years now!

    Reply
    • Jocelyn W.

      Disappointed to find out like it was supposed to be a secret that SSA said that I am to pay $3,749?! All I know this country has no chill and for the record my mother and Me don’t have the same last name however My father whom I am very estranged from we do carry the same last name. I don’t live in the same state as He. I pray this gets handled.

      Reply
    • Jeff Y.

      Not that it will matter to anyone reading this …but for 50 years straight I have worked and paid in to a NON voluntary system and my employers likewise have matched the contributions made by me . Fast forward to now only to be ordered to repay benefits due to earning too much money in 2021 , 2022 and soon 2023 . I find it astonishing how the SS System has engineered the rules to vastly favor the System at the expense of the recipients in order to latch on and hold on to money that workers legitimately contributed under the promise of later repayment .

      Reply
  2. Jane D.

    I’m a widow and very much disabled. My late husband worked his entire life even at 79 years old. I found out I have an overpayment $74,393 then it gets reduced to about $30,000 . It shouldn’t been any overpayment because of me on SSI back years ago when he lived somewhere else. I’m penalized for nothing I did wrong. I had my bills he had his separate bills. I’m struggling but can’t afford to appeal it because of resources. My resources I can’t pay my utilities and monthly bills. Social Security doesn’t want you to own anything or savings in order for them to dismiss your overpayment that shouldn’t have been in the first place. I tried to go to work to keep from losing my assets. But my health is felling me and made my situation worse that I can’t hardly walk without falling. When I had covid 2 times and still feel like I never got over it. Social Security doesn’t care how they handicap someone financially. It’s like a joke to them. I’ve tried to get money from my assets but I can’t. I can’t go to places and expect them to give me things I need because I have assets. If you worked and have things they don’t want you to have. It’s a shame after many years back they handicap me for the rest of my life to pay overpayment for something I wasn’t guilty for. I don’t know how many times I have prayed for a miracle but didn’t get it. I’m so bad off now I have to have a service dog.

    Reply
    • Stacy S.

      Thanks for reading our blog Jane. Each person’s situation is unique, and the agency handles overpayments on a case-by-case basis. We encourage you to contact your local Social Security office. For more information about the overpayment process, check out our Frequently Asked Questions. We hope this helps.

      Reply
      • Jane D.

        I don’t want to lie to social security about my assets just to wave an overpayment that shouldn’t have existed in the first place. I did call them this year but told her I wouldn’t lie about my assets just to wave it. Try paying the bills I have on just widows benefits. I have to sell my stuff in order just to make it. I’m using the name Jane because of fear of this hurting me further. I have anxiety attacks often. My nerves can’t take it.by the way, thanks anyway for reading my first comment and this one.

        Reply
  3. Bobbie R.

    I’ve been receiving (up till now) my S/S payment on the FIRST day of each month. I’m a widow as of Feb 13th and filed for & have received ONCE my late husband’s full benefit on the first of May. Because his S/S is MY ONLY SOURCE of income/savings & ALL financial assets, I DEPEND UPON HIS BENEFIT FOR MY EXISTENCE! IT’S NOW “MISSING” AS OF 7:57 a.m. TODAY, JUNE 1ST FROM MY CHECKING ACCOUNT SUMMARY. MY CREDIT UNION HAS ALREADY TAKEN $793.99 FOR MY MORTGAGE OUT SO I CAN ONLY ASSUME THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT DEPT. OF TREASURY … IS DEFAULTING ON IT’S DEBT OBLIGATIONS! THIS WILL HAVE ABYSMAL CONSEQUENCES FOR NOT ONLY RECIPIENTS OF SOCIAL INSECURITY BUT ALSO…. FOR THE GOVERNMENT WHICH HAS BECOME INSOLVENT. WHAT SAY YOU?

    Reply
    • Stacy S.

      We’re sorry to hear about your experience, Bobbie. If you did not receive your electronic payment on the scheduled pay date, you should contact your bank or financial institution first. We usually advise you to wait three (3) business days after the date you normally receive your check before calling us. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We encourage you to continue to work with your local Social Security Office. You can ask to speak with a supervisor during your next call or visit. Or you can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. You can also submit feedback by visiting our How can we help? webpage. From there, select the “Email Us” link. This will take you to the “Email Our Support Team” form where you can submit a compliment, complaint, or suggestion. We hope this is resolved soon.

      Reply
  4. thomas e.

    iam being charged an over payment and had covid almost died from it in 2021 have not worked in 3 years was awarded disabily in 2022 and win i turned 66 and a half my social security disabilty went to total social securty my payment dropped from 1597.00 to 1100.00 a month can you or some body explain this to me please no body in lumberton nc wants to help me

    Reply
    • Stacy S.

      Thanks for reading our blog and for your question, Thomas. Each person’s situation is unique, and the agency handles overpayments on a case-by-case basis. We encourage you to contact your local Social Security office. For more information about the overpayment process, check out our Frequently Asked Questions. We hope this helps.

      Reply
      • Tanya m.

        I GOT A LETTER IN THE MAIL IN THE MAIL IN 2014 STAEING THAT I HAD AN OVERPAYMENT OF $2,547.00 AND THAT THEY WOULD BE TAKING OUT $72.10 FROM MY CHECK EACH MONTH UNTIL IT WAS RECOVERED AND THEN I GOT MY PAPERWORK SHOWING THAT THEY HAD TAKIN OUT MY MONEY ALREADY EACH MONTH AND THAT MY PAYMENTS WOULD CHANGE AND THEN I WAS TOLD THAT I OWED $1,017.80 IN 2022 AND THEN I RECIEVED ANOTHER LETTER STATING I STILL OWED 1,470.00 IN 2023 NOW IF THIS STARTED IN 2014 AND THEY WERE TAKING OUT 72.10 EACH MONTH TO RECOVER THE 2,547.00 DOLLARS I WOULD HAVE PAYED THAT BACK MANY OF TIMES OVER BY NOW AND THEY ARE ALSO TAKING OUT 94.10 NOW AND IN 2022 AND 2023 THAT DOESNT EVEN MAKE SINCE HOW CAN I STILL OWE AND THE AMOUNT GO UP INSTEAD OF DOWN SOMEWHERE IM GETING SCREWED AND I SHOULDNT HAVE TO PAY BACK I THINK IM OWED MONEY FOR THEM TAKING MY MONEY FIR THIS MANY YEARS FOR AN OVER PAYMENT THAT HAS BEEN PAID BACK FOR YEARS NOW.

        Reply
  5. Mam

    The overpayments happened when everyone got the stimulus checks! Ssa counted the checks as income. So a lot of people it very high overpayments and we lost our stimulus money the we have to pay back to ssa. Cant someone fix this?

    Reply
    • ASue2

      EM-20014 REV 9 specifically identifies 3rd round EIPs as “excluded from income and resources” and EM-21050 REV 5: A.2.5 adds: “Important: Resource exclusions for retained disaster assistance are indefinite.” Request reconsideration.

      Reply
      • Lanette N.

        The problem is that SSI is ignoring their own rules and issuing these overpayments anyway. According to news stories, people who have apealed have been denied. SSA claims they can’t distinguish what is the stimulus, if money is mixed in someones bank account. But they had a rrule regarding that situation. They are supposed to accept the beneficiaries explanation. But they are not doing that. This happened to my sister. She explained that the excess money in her account was from the stimulus and the agent did not respond. And SSI sent her an overpayment lettert, which she is currently paying off. She, like most beneficiaries, was afraid to appeal.

        Reply
      • Mam

        I did and they kept yelling at me saying it was my fault they wouldn’t listen to me. Very upsetting!

        Reply
    • Lanette N.

      You are right. This happened to my sister. There needs to be an investigation and restoration of benefits without people having to appeal. She is afraid to appeal, as most people are. And I have heard news stories of people in this situtation who had their appeals ignored or denied.

      Reply
  6. Carolyn M.

    We will never recouped our social security back into our trust funds at 10%! Instead of cutting people completely out of their monthly income, just cut it in half! They lived high on the hog when they were overpaid, now it is time to pay it back, but NOT at 10 little percent! At least ask for 25-50 percent back now!

    Reply
    • Teri J.

      Carolyn,
      Obviously you have not faced any one of the various situations that can cause an over-payment and imply that everyone who has been overpaid has caused this intentionally and willfully. There are many situations where that is far from the truth. I myself am facing one such situations. I am not going to give the details but SSA does not always disclose full information; make take years to approve a disability claim; can and does make errors. Not everyone who has received an overpayment is a thief. I hope you never have to face a situation were the only money you have coming is being withheld at 100% of your benefit for something that was not your fault.

      Reply
    • Cece S.

      You seem a but heartless. If one only has SSI or SSA, that is not living well. It is a daily struggle. There are people who report working yet it is not recorded until two years later then punished when They had to stop working. It is not about paying it back, It is about not having them be homeless in many cases. May you walk in other’s shoes to fully understand one day.

      Reply
  7. Toon

    In the year of 2013, I found myself in an overpayment situation with my state employer. I still can’t understand how does one go so long before discovering that a recipient is being overpaid. I was a horrific time for me and my family. My income source from them went from 1,300 and some dollars a month to saying I was only entitled to the $300 dollar amount. I loss $1,000 of income virtually overnight. How was I to pay my bills and care for my family. We had just struggled through a Workman’s Comp very tight budget. Workman’s Comp was only 66 2/rds of your original salary. having workded for ths agency 12 years at that time, I had no reason to question the amount I was receiving. The reasoning being was because In the past what they said my salary would be, “was” precisely that and the same with my Workman’s Comp and why would I question a State Treasury Dept. on the amount I would receive. They are the professionals in checking and balancing these types of things, right? Wrong. NOT only has it happened to me, but it has happened to several other of this agencies employees and it continues to happen without any sanction or relief for these employees. The Agencyexpeditiously and very agesssively comes after the employee to recup this money. When I asked for time to get my self together due to this unexpectant payment, I was told the time to get my self together was when i was taking this money in error. I was treated as if I knew the payment was wrong. Nothing could have been further from the truth. My family and I suffered greatly from this error. We loss our home, and moved many many times trying to re-establish ourselves, my cars were repossessed and I was shamed by “some” of my family (I had to ask for help at times. . It was a mentally devastating time in my life. but with faith and determination, the money is almost repaid. As my Social Security Cost of Living went up, my Disability check amount dwindled down, due to the offset rule, and now that once $1,300.00 figure is now where I get less than $50.00 a month now. I have loss my life insurance, vision and dental benefits that I could one time at least pay out of that state check. It is wrong for this to happened to dedicated employees and to find themselves in such aa horrifical status. Especially Elderly retired persons who should not have to get a job to repay this money when they have become ill and really don’t need to be repaying an error that is not their fault. Were is a voice for this situation to rectify it. We live in a Tech society with computer programs that are precise to the point. So this has happened enough times for a solution to be found. It is devastating, and it is wrong. It’s now 2024, and I am still dealing with situations that were created by this error. I was told it this is tax payers money and it must be recouped, but the majority of these persons never intentionally did this. Admit your error and work in a favorable manner to rectify this situation. Thank you,

    Reply
  8. Janie O.

    I receive disability due to Alzheimer’s and Lupus. I was no longer able to work because of my Alzheimer’s. I could not keep up with the work load or remember everything I needed to do. The stress became a real factor because it caused my Alzheimer’s and Lupus to flair up more often. My income is all disability. Are you going to reduce my income, which I have paid into to get the benefit? This is critical to get the full impact it will have on our monthly income. You need to get more info out to everyone so we know what impact this is going to be? How in the world could this be happening? You better get all of the impacts documented so we know what monetary impact this will cost!! This is going to create a huge issue for all of us who have paid in
    All the time we worked and had money deducted. You better be prepared for plenty of backlash because I do not want to see my income drop due to your mistakes!

    Reply
    • Sue

      Hi, Janie. Thanks for reading our blog and for your questions. An overpayment occurs when you receive more money than you should have been paid. If you’re overpaid, we’ll notify you by mail. To learn more about overpayments, check out our blog and Frequently Asked Questions. If you still have questions, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. We hope this helps.

      Reply
    • Angie C.

      They cut my check óut for paperwork I mailed in 3 times then took in 2 times í hand gave ít to them after sítting íñ there for over 2 hours and they yelled at me and still they say I didn’t get it to them so they cut my check out and I signed for 4 checks and was ínformed if they didn’t find me disabled I would have to pay it back well I’m disabled so the 5000 in paymeñts I was entitled to they have now taken over 15000 and didn’t receive any of my back pày and they still say I owe 1000 how do I get help with this I tried to sign a waiver but the office in Greeneville tenn said they would take my benefit away from me or I could just deal with less money and it’s bull shit I had a public jób at 15 and earned this benefit why are they allowed tó do this to ppl?

      Reply
      • Stacy S.

        We’re sorry to hear about your experience, Angie. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We encourage you to continue to work with your local Social Security office. You can ask to speak with a supervisor during your next call or visit. Or you can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. We hope this is resolved soon.

        Reply
  9. PJ M.

    Reading these comments makes me afraid of being forced on to SS in the future. The government takes our money, then has the audacity to call it a government benefit!! With this “overpayment issue” it seems like all of the SS money paid in by working citizens has been mismanaged (NOT OVERPAID) and they are trying to refill the pot. If there is anything left after I go, my own family doesn’t even get it. They call it retirement benefit, but who can live on the measly amounts you get, it’s a joke. This is a government created ponzi scheme.

    Reply
    • West C.

      The $400.00000 that we spent for other countries would solve the whole thing.
      & Still have a government

      Reply

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