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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. Jamic

    Good to hear. Communication is vital.

    I’ve had five letters saying that various amounts would be paid, five or six months hence. Never received. No detail,so impossible to track….conveniently.

    Why was it coming in a batch? Why the delay, why not just pay it? What was it anyway?
    No one explains. They repeat what you just said, say that they’ll turn it over to Regional. Same thing.
    My so-called Oferpayment was never explained. They reduced the amount subject to WEP. It had already been reduced.

    If there was ever a use for Artificial Intelligence,here it is.
    What happens to those for whom Overpayments were collected , but were in error?

    Reply
    • Carol S.

      I call them about those letters. What I found out was that any additional amount they say you will get in the following month(s) is automatically applied to the debt and never seen in reality.

      Reply
      • Sharon M.

        Ok, I’m not sure who they’re talking about here. Are pall the people receiving g social security checks going to have to repay over payment? I have no idea what they’re talking about. I’m certainly not being over paid, we can barely make ends meet!!

        Reply
        • Sharon M.

          Also, I’ve never received any kind of letter about any overpayment!

          Reply
    • Constance J.

      The overpayment was never explain either, just pay $2k why???? No explanation where did it come from?

      Reply
  2. Daniel S.

    My wife retired July 2023 .. Aug. She received her lump sum for accurred sick leave. Subsequently the Social security office said she was still working & collecting SSI Payments.. they stopped SSI Payments for three months & she is still waiting for it to start back up. She sent in a form to show it was vacation.

    Reply
  3. Crysti F.

    I am extremely pleased to see that the initiatives you discussed are coming to fruition. This is indeed the most positive step to date for the beneficiaries of the program. Taking ownership of problems and working to resolve them…I give you GREAT credit for this sir.

    Reply
    • LC

      I suggest you wait until actual implementation and a couple years thereafter before giving the SSA credit for positive changes. The talk in Mar 2024 is great, but I’ve been a victim of their tactics and strategy in the past. My trust level with SSA is very, very low.

      Reply
  4. Patty S.

    My overpayment stems from working for 25 + years in the Social Security environment and paying my fair share. Then I went to work for the Teachers Retirement System and retired after 25 years. I had been receiving my SS retirement for 3 1/2 years as well as working. Now that I am receiving TRS retirement (Windfall Elimination)I am being penalized 70% of my benefits and I will be receiving $1.00 a month for 7 months to get it repaid. I was the one that told the SS admin that I was receiving TRS and it still took them 3 months to cut my benefits. It is a sad state of afairs that I paid into the system and will not be receiving what should be coming to me.

    Reply
    • Grant B.

      I absolutely agree 100%. My father was a hardworking union boilermaker for 40 years. He passed away shortly after he turned 64 and was only able to collect 3 months of his earned social security benefits. He paid into the system all his working years with tge promise of having those benefits later in life. But since his life was cut short by AO exposure from his tour in Vietnam in 66 his benefits vaporized when he passed. He wasn’t able to leave those rightfully earned benefits to his children or to charity. They were just swallowed up by an unfair and unjust system of forcefully taking your money your entire life and then having to answer to no one when they just decide to keep it when you pass away. Its a sad and unfortunate way people are treated especially veterans who pay the ultimate price “their life” .

      Reply
    • Jessica

      I agree also! I worked 26 years under SSA; then, I went into teaching for the next 24 years. My SSA is reduced (several hundred dollars per month) due to WEP. I also had to repay an amount from my SSA benefit due to also receiving my earned TRS retirement after starting my SS. I couldn’t continue under SS when I began teaching; I had to contribute toward TRS. The WEP and GPO are two of the worst bills ever passed. Had I known about the WEP when I entered the education field, I would have chosen another line of work. Let’s hope a Social Security Fairness Act will be passed to eliminate these unfair penalties.

      Reply
  5. Chevonne

    This will be of great help for me because overpayments have cost me and I now live off of less than $400 a month and still dealing with some health concerns which comes from stress. I won’t even try to work unless they come up with a better way for me to live and not be a slave to Social Security. We’ve got to do better so my quality of life can be better.

    Reply
  6. Mary S.

    Great news- and the SGA earning limits need to be reviewed. The federal minimum wage rate is not the minimum pay rate for many. A system that is so complex and difficult to follow can and should be updated to new systems, metrics, and policies. As a service provider, we have been asked to help individuals gather information on work going back 10 or more years-It is so, so difficult.

    Reply
  7. Anne M.

    Work Reviews are taking over a year in some cases leading to large overpayments. Someone continuing to receive their disability check when they shouldn’t has many implications. It could affect Medicaid eligibility, have income tax liability on money they weren’t due, and trying to save the money to repay the overpayment can lead to being over resourced for programs such as Medicaid. There needs to be some type of accountability at the Payment Center since that is where most of the work reviews are sitting for months and years at a time. Neither a beneficiary nor a service provider has any way to contact the PC to check status. I don’t believe an office claims rep can either. Making work review processing a priority would go a very long way in reducing overpayments to disability beneficiaries.

    Reply
  8. David K.

    This is very very welcome news. Having worked as a CR for the agency for many years, I was always troubled and saddened to see how the recovery of overpayments caused such hardship for many recipients. Kudos to Commissioner O’Malley and his staff for these changes.

    Reply
  9. Carolyn C.

    The local social security dept worker refused for months and months to put in my paperwork re overpayment and with held my money claiming I did not show up . I even proved he refused to see me when I came into the office. I am still upset that this matter is not resolved . I do not know what else to do

    Reply
    • David K.

      Hi Ms. Cruse. My recommendation is that you call your local congressman’s office and ask for their help. Many people have gotten good results from doing this. The agency is usually pretty responsive to congressional requests.

      Reply
    • John O.

      Ask to talk to a different employee or a supervisor. Going to a congressman is a waste of time. The Congressman only acts as a middleman and refers the matter back to the field office. That’s where you should stay.

      Reply
      • Margaret H.

        It’s not a waste of time. Congressional/Senatorial offices have a designated team to help constituents. You’ll have to provide details & documentation and sign a release for them to talk to SSA about your case, but my Senator’s staff got my SSDI case out of the line for a hearing and got me approved without the hearing. It took me 4 1/2 years total to get it, but they made all the difference.

        Reply
    • Crystal B.

      We’re sorry to learn of your experience, Carolyn. We encourage you to continue to work with your local Social Security office. It may be best to visit your local office again and ask to speak with a supervisor while you’re there. You can submit feedback by visiting our contact Social Security 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
      • GUIVENO B.

        I’m like work

        Reply
  10. Terri G.

    As a Certified Benefits Coordinator for the Ticket to Work Program this news is a huge breath of relief for consumers and advocates alike.
    While human error will occur inserting humanity in finding resolutions is a more powerful way to demonstrate that even persons with disabilities deserve to be heard and recognized. Thank you for this huge step forward!

    Reply

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