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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. Lucy

    This is such a scam. I am 66 & have worked since I was 14 years old. An immigrant can walk into any ss office and get more money than me and then when I work they want their money back?? They are killing senior citizens!! Just killing them!!

    Reply
    • Patricia D.

      OMG, this is so TRUE!! Every time I went to the office there were immigrants with translators in the office. I wondered why they were there because I was under the impression that they could not get SS. I thought you had to put into it before you could take out of it? My mind is BLOWN!!

      Reply
  2. Lisa

    I am rep payee for my adult daughter. We have an on-going repayment for a 5,000 plus over payment that stems back from 2018. The reason for the O/P is that we went over 2,000 income limit. Sometimes by a few dollars, sometimes more. In my opinion, SS needs to revamp the way they rule these types of O/P. Here is an example of how they can do this. If you go over the 2,000 limit from $1.00 – $100.00, they should put it at a 2% recoup of your check. Over $100.00 – 500.00, could be a 10% recoup of your total check. You get the point. There is absolutely NO REASON to take the FULL CHECK away for going over by only 1.00. That is the true hardship of these over payments too but I do not see that being addresses in these new policies they plan to implement. Does anyone know different? If so, please let me know.

    Reply
    • Paul

      Before anything else, make sure the Social Security Administration (SSA) calculated the overpayment (O/P) correctly. There can be confusion between resources and income limits for SSI recipients. The $2k limit applies to RESOURCES, the INCOME limits are calculated differently.
      https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-17-008.pdf

      Here’s the issue:

      The SSA might receive information from your bank indicating your daughter’s account balance exceeds the $2k resource limit for several months or more.
      However, this might not reflect the full picture. Funds deposited into her account that month should be counted as income for that month, but not as a resource in the same month.
      Only if some of this income remains in the account the following month, should it be considered a resource. Even then, you’d need to exclude the income received that following month.
      Unfortunately, bank statements received by the SSA often don’t capture this nuance. An assumption is made that your daughter is exceeding the resource limit based on the overall balance. This can be both incorrect and unfair.

      What You Can Do:

      Appeal: Even if your appeal is late, consider submitting a written statement explaining a “good cause” reason for the delay.

      Request a Waiver: You can request the SSA waive repayment if the overpayment was outside your control, your daughter can’t afford to repay it, or repayment would cause undue hardship. Emphasize how small the resource overage was compared to the overpayment amount that created.

      You can file both. Keep copies of everything you submit!

      Legislation on the Horizon: There’s proposed legislation to raise the $2k resource limit, which hasn’t been adjusted for inflation in decades. It’s worth noting that pursuing “small” overpayments can be inefficient for the SSA due to administrative costs associated with appeals and waivers, so besides just the fairness issue, raising the resource limits actually has the potential to lower SSA administrative costs.

      Reply
    • Sue

      We’re sorry to hear about your daughter’s situation, Lisa. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. You can learn about our most recent updates to the overpayment recovery process in our blog and press releases. To submit your suggestions, please visit 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 helps.

      Reply
  3. Susan D.

    Overpayments are being pursued by Individuals claiming to be with the social security administration and are threatening individuals, companies, employers not to hire or do business with the Individuals the social security administration is pursuing with the alleged secretive debt they’re not suppose to know exists. The social security administration debt collectors tell neighbors, family, acquaintances and anyone their targeted Individual comes across, that they’re intentionally causing poverty because the individual is in a POVERTY PROGRAM which belongs to the SSA. They laugh and smile about the oppression and despair they are causing. They tell people that the Individual has “debt” that they are “not suppose to know about” and the community tells them, then why are y’all after them? If they are not allowed to work or know that a debt exist? And they simply smile and mention all the money theyre making while the government is WASTING money.

    Reply
  4. Carl W.

    When I retired in Oct, 2016 and went on my wife’s health ins through her work. She retired Dec, 2019 and we both went on her COBRA for 12 months.Now SS is charging me a penalty each month and they say for life as I did not have the proper coverage, as I did not have Part B. They also say the VA coverage and COBRA does not count as health coverage so I will have to pay the penalty for Part B for Life. I was not told any of this in 2016 and have been fighting it for several years. Anybody got suggestions?

    Reply
    • Lisa H.

      Unfortunately, Social Security does mention that penalties for the life of your social security payments for not filing for medicare at 65 (unless you’re on a private insurance through a employer (yours or spouses). And that employer has to have at least 100 employees). That’s what I remember reading anyway.

      Reply
      • Paul

        For those age 65+, having employer-sponsored health insurance, regardless of company size, allows you to delay enrolling in Part B without a penalty as long as you remain employed and covered by the plan.

        Employer Size and Primary Payer:

        Companies with 20 or more employees:

        Your employer plan usually remains the primary payer, meaning it pays first and Medicare acts as secondary insurance.
        In these situations, having Part B may not be as cost-effective.

        Companies with less than 20 employees:

        Medicare becomes the primary payer.
        Deciding on Part B enrollment might be trickier as your private insurance may be more expensive and some find it cost-effective to replace it with Medicare and a supplement or an “Advantage” plan. However, many people in this situation still choose to delay.

        Important Note:

        The information about a “100-employee rule” applies to Medicare Part B and disability benefits for those under 65. It’s not relevant to this specific situation.

        Remember:

        Consult your employer’s benefits administrator for detailed information regarding their plan and how it works with Medicare!

        Reply
    • Paul

      Correcting the principle of a penalty for late enrollment even though you had VA or COBRA coverage would require a change in the law. The rationale behind the current law is that unless you or your spouse are still working and current employment is the source of your medical coverage, Medicare wants medical premiums paid to them. Medicare does not want people selecting lower-cost medical insurance options while they are relatively young and healthy & then coming to Medicare when their health takes a turn for the worse.

      Your situation doesn’t happen that often. COBRA is typically an expensive option, so people usually switch to Medicare as soon as it is available. However, sometimes an ex-employer reimburses you for COBRA coverage as part of an employer separation agreement or a buyout. In such cases, unless you get good advice, the favor of this “inexpensive” COBRA coverage can be higher Medicare premiums when you do enroll in Medicare Part B.

      If you feel that an SSA agent gave you incorrect information back in 2016 that you relied on, you can ask for equitable relief. You will be asked to provide as much evidence as possible that the error occurred. The agent that handled your claim may have made notes about what was discussed. However, at the time of your discussion in 2016, it is unlikely that your future circumstances (such as a buyout) were known well enough that an agent could cover all the future possibilities, and SSA and Medicare both provide resources that might have helped guide you as your circumstances changed.

      There is some chance that the amount of the penalty is wrong. Take a careful look at what your wife’s separation agreement says was her last date of employment (not when she stopped reporting to work) and when COBRA began. Those dates are critical in determining your penalty amount. There should be no penalty for the period during which you had employer-based insurance based on your wife’s ongoing employment. The penalty amount should be 10% of the standard Medicare Part B Premium amount for each full year you did not have medical insurance based on your wife’s continued employment.

      If you think the penalty amount is incorrect, ask for a “Reduction of Part B Late Enrollment Penalty Amount”. You will need to submit proof, the best-being documents from the former employer. If this is not possible, submit documents showing dates of coverage from the insurance companies involved, IRS form 1095-Bs, or the best evidence you can obtain. As a last resort, sometimes former coworkers have similar documents that can help if yours have been lost and can’t be replaced.

      Unless otherwise instructed, submit only copies and keep originals for yourself. Try not to let the originals out of your sight. Corrections can take a long time (many months), even if it becomes clear that SSA has it wrong. Get further instructions from an SSA agent. They may suggest you complete the following forms. Include the phrase “Reduction of Part B Late Enrollment Penalty Amount” on each form unless an SSA agent otherwise advises.
      https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-561-u2.pdf
      https://www.cms.gov/medicare/cms-forms/cms-forms/downloads/cms40b-e.pdf
      https://www.cms.gov/medicare/cms-forms/cms-forms/downloads/cms-l564e.pdf

      Reply
  5. Maxine P.

    I overpaid in my first year of retirement because I was working part-time taking care of my disabled son and because when I met with Social Security no one explained how it works when someone works and collects Social Security benefits. I paid back in cash. My son was charged with overearning and I immediately appealed, sending in a 34-page response including numerous receipts showing his expenses and he had received SSI since high school. At first I was told that the appeal was not received, so I sent it again certified mail. The second time I was informed it was not received. We went to the local Social Security office and waited over 2.5 hours to be met with and I presented the 34-page appeal and explained the reason, including my son’s numerous disabilities and reasons why he cannot work, had no idea why I overpaid and why the decision was made. He accompanied me to the appointment. No one sat down with us and went over the appeal but the representative said she would submit it. We had a phone conference with someone who hinted that perhaps medical evidence might have helped (this person claimed to be from Social Security). Finally, a phone conference (during the pandemic) was scheduled and we were told the appeal was denied, with no explanation although I asked for one. He started paying back and paid back more than twice the overpayment amount.

    Reply
    • Paul

      First, your story is not unusual. Old O/P are all horribly complex, typically badly handled, & facts surrounding are assumed to be but are often not correct. First, I take it your son recvd a SS benefit being your disabled “child” & your earnings should have reduced those benefits. However, the child also recvd at least $1/mo in SSI? If so, had correct pymts been made at the time, SSI would have likely increased to replace SS lost from your record. You could try a waiver now citing this, but after the O/P is recovered is harder. You’ll likely have to prove that money is now needed by your son. BTW, you want a waiver, not an appeal. Appeal is a claim facts are wrong & O/P incorrect, & normally must be submitted within 60 days of your son (or rep payee) being informed of O/P unless “good cause for late” is shown. Waiver says your son not at fault & can’t afford to repay or the collection is unfair for another reason. BTW, if SSI continued, the O/P recovery rate on the SS benefit should have defaulted to 10%, not 100%. These things are all horribly complex, many factors to consider. Courts need to get involved, though I have little hope. SS needs to be forced to waive the majority of outstanding O/Ps if not collected within a few years, as most of these are so horribly complex that they are seldom correctly calculated & as you discovered, evidence is lost & SSA does not have enough knowledgeable personnel avail to unwind them. For example, call the SSA 800#. Most now only read scripts & they get in trouble if they can’t handle your call in a few minutes.

      Reply
  6. Hank

    I have been repaying SS for overpayments since 2012. My overpayment is due to working and making more money for many months than what was allowed while on SSDI. I recently discovered receipts from my employer which showed that I did not make more money that what was allowed for several months which totals $8,000. How and can I get this $8,000 reduced from my overpayment due?

    Reply
  7. Mary w.

    What about beneficiary s who were underpaid due to caseload and mail backlog. Denying benefits without notification leaving them with a year to re file. Did ssa do anything to help them from losing benefits besides saying oh well reapply still not being paid after approval because we were told to file new application. How did that help anyone facings barriers and the great work employees did handling those cases

    Reply
    • Michael S.

      I signed a waiver at my last audit, so Social Security could view my work history and my pay. Not knowing that I went over one month in May of 2021 by a few dollars. I was paid like nothing happen until this last one, I received a noticed on line that I had a over payment of over 60 thousand dollars for 2 1/2 years. I did go over in 2023 due to my wife’s cancer returning and rent going up. My question is why did Social Security have me sign that waiver if they don’t care to monitor, and than act like it’s all my fault. So I I’m still disabled going back to full time work at almost 66.

      Reply
      • Michael S.

        I almost forgot, my local Social Security office told me it was useless to ask for any type of waiver, that I owed to much and had to repay it all. She advised 1000.00 or more per month for 60 months. That that was just the way it worked.

        Reply
        • Paul

          Periodically check on the waiver’s status. Make sure you keep your mailing address with SSA up to date & that you keep checking your mail. If/when the waiver gets denied, and it probably will, file for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The process is likely to take years, but it’s your best shot.
          Another, possibly quicker approach is to file form SSA-634
          Request for Change in Overpayment Recovery Rate
          https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-634.pdf
          Form is used to show the current O/P recovery rate leaves you unable to meet your necessary living expenses.

          Reply
      • Sue

        We’re sorry to hear about your situation, Michael. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. To learn about recent updates in the overpayment recovery process, please read our blog and press releases. 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. If you receive disability benefits, you may want to consider reporting your wages using your personal my Social Security account until you reach your full retirement age. To learn more about wage reporting options, visit our Frequently Asked Questions. We hope this helps.

        Reply
        • Amy G.

          I have been issued an overpayment of 193,000.00, in 2022, my eldest daughter , 2,200 and my youngest 11,000.00. Both of my daughters were minor at the time they’re getting the benefits . In 2022 I got an overpayment letter telling me to pay the whole amount of 193,000 some thousand (beginning 2007) as well as having my two daughters pay their overpayment amount also . I was told foster care income is earned income which was why I was issued the overpayment 16 or 17 years later . I have been a foster care provider since 2005 and notified SSA and IRS both . SSA approved my SSDI in 2006 ,and now wanted all the benefits back in 30 days . I had filed for reconsideration and won it . But my SSA local office overturned my appeal . I was told to not appeal before the judge as their decision won’t change . Knowing this , I had written an overpayment compromise letter to reduce my payment as it was not my fault . I offered a lump sum amount to have my case closed but never heard from SSA. My two daughter’s never got a response regarding their waiver appeal letter and it’s been two years . How can SSA hold us responsible for this overpayment, almost 17 years after? Didn’t SSA have access to IRS tax returns that clearly states income ? Doesn’t SSA access our tax returns to figure our Medicare contributions ? Why did SSA wait 17 years then now asks me to pay this huge amount and tell me not to have judicial hearing as their decision won’t change anyway ? How unfair is this ? I’m 61 and I think it’s very wrong for SSA to just demand payment and not take responsibility for their action!

          Reply
  8. Alan G.

    Why haven t I received my social security check for March 2024

    Reply
    • Alan G.

      Why haven t I received my social security for March 2024?

      Reply
      • Alan G.

        When will I receive my Social Security check?

        Reply
      • Crystal B.

        Hi, Alan. Thanks for using our blog and for your question. We’re sorry to hear you did not receive your payment for March. If you receive direct deposit, please contact your bank or financial institution first. They may be able to determine why your electronic payment failed. If you still need to report a late, missing, or stolen Social Security payment, contact us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. We hope this helps.

        Reply
  9. Cedric H.

    I just turned in my paperwork for a waiver. Definitely thankful for the recent policies put into place bye our new commissioner Martin Omally. Thanks

    Reply
  10. Narayan A.

    As new policy recommends overpaying
    30 to 60 months recovery.❤️‍🩹 For SSI recipients.

    Can I request for me?

    Reply

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