General

Social Security Announces Four Key Updates to Address Improper Payments

March 20, 2024 • By

Reading Time: 3 Minutes

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.

 

Did you find this Information helpful?

Yes
No
Thanks for your feedback!

Tags: ,

See Comments

About the Author

Comments

Please review our Comment Policy before leaving a comment.

  1. Mary O.

    My husband and I retired early in order to adopt and care for three disabled siblings. When we turned 62, we each met separately with front desk workers at our local office to discuss whether it would be more advisable to take retirement benefits at 62 or 66. Because claiming benefits earlier would allow our children to also receive benefits, the calculations were that we would be ahead to claim benefits earlier. During each of these meetings, we were told the Community Based Waiver Services Difficulty of Care payments we received through our children’s Medicaid insurance would not count as income for overpayment purposes (this is not considered taxable income per IRS notice 2014-7) and no social security or other FICA payments are withheld.

    After about a year and a half of receiving benefits, I received an overpayment notice based on these payments. I called and spoke with a regional representative (because it was during COVID). She indicated these payments should not have been counted and made the correction (I have a letter indicating this happened). She said I likely would have to contact the local office each year to explain the situation since my tax return triggered the overpayment notice.

    So the next year I got another overpayment notice and so contacted the local office. For the first time, I was told the Waiver Services payment should have been counted. No one disputed that we had been given incorrect information (assuming the newest information is correct, which research we’ve done since appears to indicate is an undecided, gray area that has been handled inconsistently by Social Security). Nevertheless, we were told that unless we conceded that the overpayments were valid, we would be required to repay what amounts now to almost $50,000 for all five of us over multiple years) our overpayments mean our children also were not entitled to benefits during those months).

    So we asked for reconsideration of the underlying decision and waited over a year for a decision. In the meantime, one office employee told us just to ask for a Waiver since none of this was our fault. When we didn’t hear back after that request, we went back in to the local office again, and were told they couldn’t process our Waiver request unless we conceded we owed the money (not knowing what the result to our Waiver request would be, and certainly not trusting the office at this point, after being told so many different things).

    Just a couple weeks ago, we received notice that our requests for reconsideration had been denied. About the same time, we read online the press release from the Commissioner stating Waivers requests would be processed more easily when the overpayment was not the person’s fault.

    So we fin went into the local office and again were told we had to give up our right to pursue an appeal of the policy decision (to an ALJ hearing) before we could receive any consideration of our earlier Waiver request that had been out on hold. The supervisor who we had been dealing with was rude and would not even acknowledge the Commissioner’s press release (we brought a copy), saying they had not been given any direction to handle anything differently.

    As I stated, we now are told we owe almost $50,000, due to no fault of our own. To make matters worse, we could have avoided this overpayment if we had divided the Waiver payments differently between my husband and me; we didn’t divide them every each year because we didn’t know it mattered based on what we were told by the office. Worst of all, we will end up with the worst of all worlds by losing much of the benefits we were paid, but still being treated as claiming at age 62, forever reducing our future benefits.

    At this point, there seems to be no point in trying to resolve this with our local office.

    Reply
    • S.D.

      We’re sorry to hear about your experience, Mary. If you disagree with the reconsideration decision we’ve made, you and your husband can file an online request for a non-medical hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). Also, our new policy allows us to collect 10% of the total monthly Social Security benefit to recover most overpayments. You can learn more at our blog. You can also resubmit your request for a waiver. For more information, visit our Waive repayment of overpaid Social Security benefits page. If you’d like to submit feedback, 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 complaint, compliment, or suggestion. We hope this is resolved soon.

      Reply
  2. Chris

    I have been having 270.00 a month taken from my Social Security because I applied early under the impression that I was eligible for my ex husbands benefits.
    I was never told until years later that I was not eligible hence the years of deductions. I tried to appeal but was never able to meet with anyone.
    I’m now down to the wire with only $881.40 left to pay.
    I wonder if this could be waived so I get my entire benefit that I’m eligible for???

    Reply
  3. Milton s.

    Whoever is training the social security workers is the devil. It’s like all the lies and everything they do illegal they are protected by some higher being. They know something we don’t know. because if there was a such thing as judgment Day why doesn’t this day bother social security workers they not even worried about judgment Day. Social security office is part of a corporation is like a corporation that has many different parts to corporation. All those meetings they are having in Washington concerning the overpayments that’s for the people. the reason we’re having this problem is because of Congress because the bigger corporations are in Washington DC. Congress alone with the president or the heads of this corporation. Congress is fully aware of what social security is doing to the people however because they’ll give so much money to immigrants and other countries. they have fallen back on their bread and butter the American people. Because they want to control other countries so they give them Mass amounts of cash. What better way to control a race of people. The American people as a whole are being tricked out of their Fortune. What social security is doing is just the beginning of what the corporations are capable of doing. It is taken away from the people and at the same time starving them and they are fully aware that cruel and unusual punishment is at hand in what the social security office is doing to the people.

    Reply
    • Fjb

      My thoughts exactly. They way everything is happening, the people in office, particularly the one who has direct executive authority over policy and commissioner is the same guy who’s been in the hot seat for other deep rooted gov. Corruption. Yeah the same guy who not only makes $400,000 year salary, slaps everyone in the face by receiving close $3,500.00/month in SS retirement. It’s like the twilight zone and that fact that every agent who chooses to follow suit instead of quit and expose this just shows the amount of evil in this world and the extent of the entire embezzlement scandals. This is not some error or systemic failure due to underfunding, understaffing. This is far far more scary and troubling

      Reply
  4. Fred

    I had a payback situation that took 100% of my SS for over six months. I filed a claim. I presented information thru the mail that was not available to the decision maker. My claim was reviewed and reversed. Payment was made and my benefits restarted. Everyone was professional. The SS employees do not own “our life journey”. We do. I have nothing but praise for what they do and tolerate. My compliments to the agency.

    Reply
    • S.D.

      Hi, Fred. Thanks for your reading our blog and for your compliment! We try hard to provide the best possible service to our customers. Your thoughts are important to us, and we’re pleased that you had such a positive experience. You can 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 your compliment, complaint, or suggestion. Thank you!

      Reply
  5. Diane R.

    My daughter’s SSI case worker said she knows my 36 disabled daughter is in need for SSI, remains eligible at this time but until the overpayment is paid or waived she will not receive further support. My misunderstanding of adult disabled support vs child support was a comedy of errors.

    Reply
    • S.D.

      We’re sorry to hear of your daughter’s situation, Diane. For her security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. If you are your daughter’s representative payee, we encourage you to work with your local Social Security office on a repayment plan. You can ask to speak with a supervisor during your next call or visit. To learn more about your daughter’s appeal and waiver rights, check out our Overpayments fact sheet. We hope this is resolved soon.

      Reply
  6. Mary K.

    I had applied for disability 2014 had two attorneys about15 case managers ad had appealled to the federal courtin 2019. Case was accepted and transfered to different court put on the docket and assigned a magistrate judge . Issued a stay due to covid received all correspondences from and to through us mail. Motion to dismiss in Oct and opposition to motion was not adequate and given more time to redo.again all correspondences through us mail and pacer. Case dismissed Jan 2021 due to late filing. Even though that was okayd by another judge. No notification sent to me through mail. Found out when ss reopened in 2022 that it was dismissed and told to refile notice of dismissals sent to emails which were not mine. Reported to ss told maybe it was delayed in mail I reapplied because I had no one helping me or trying to show guidance it was approved. I lost all my back pay and the date I refilled is date used ut the date on new app was jan 2021 no one helped with anything even made a joke about mail backlog noone is helping poor people with barriers they are robbing them of basic. Needs and money that they are entitled to 40 years I work and get robbed by my goverment

    Reply
    • Phyllis K.

      There are free legal services available across the country. You can locate the local agency for your locale here: https://www.lsc.gov/about-lsc/what-legal-aid/i-need-legal-help. In addition, there are Senior Legal Services agencies across the country, too. There are lawyers across the country who have expertise and can help you resolve this type of issue.

      Reply
  7. Paul S.

    I am wondering if there is a certain process that you go to to see if your present health conditions make me feel like I may be eligible for a payout amount. Please let me know. Thanks please text me if possible with any information available regarding this.

    Reply
    • S.D.

      Hi, Paul. Thanks for reading our blog and for your question. We pay disability benefits if you’re unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last at least 1 year or to end in death. To learn more, visit our Disability-How You Qualify page. When you’re ready, the most convenient way to apply for disability is online. Or, if you prefer, you can schedule an appointment by calling us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Our Disability Starter Kit will help you get ready for your online application or disability interview. We hope this helps.

      Reply
  8. Ielena L.

    A similar thing happened to me It was not paid.I had every right in 16 years to completely Another payment for my disability.Tried to check and count many times But they always refused me.I started in 2008 with $ 600 and for 16 years old with many chronic diseases I get $ 996.Which person can survive on this money?My health is getting worse And I don’t believe that someday I can squeeze Old age is worthy.Sorry if you shouldn’t have taken your time.

    Reply
    • Gerry E.

      I know at first I was getting 332.50 a month they was real nice and raised it to 382.50 and I haven’t received my back benefits from 2018 I’ve been following a file for disability in 2012 and I got it in 2022 and they were supposed to go back with my benefits to 2018 I haven’t seen that benefit as far as 332.50 I have no clue how they figure somebody’s supposed to live off of that or anything at that I’ve been trying to find some help on it ever since in the agency that I call does not respond in no good way they always tell me anything working on it and I don’t know anybody’s ever got back pain I mean they always got your back benefits but you know maybe some will change you know anything that I could do to make something happen I’m hoping for it and suggestions thank you

      Reply
      • S.D.

        We’re sorry to hear of your situation, Gerry. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. Please contact your local Social Security office for assistance with your back benefits. You can ask to speak with a supervisor on your next call or visit. Or you can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. We hope this helps.

        Reply
  9. Gina C.

    hi, this is all good for the people who have to start this “overpayment” journey, but what about the people who have suffered, and are still suffering from the effects of the misuse of Authority, and what i think, is just out & out Embezzlement. Because, when they “SAY” (& believe me when I say it was a lie) they’ve overpaid many of us, well that money went somewhere, so where could it be? Embezzled by crooked workers etc….
    Because of this I was ordered 2 allow them 2 take $200.00, monthly from my check. Then 6 months & $1200.oo later, they stopped my benefits completely for 32 months. At which time, i had 2 reapply etc….. i was forced again 2 jump thru hoops etc… but when I was contacted by the SSA worker 2 arrange for my checks to be deposited etc…. i was told i would receive $6000.oo up front. well what a joke. all i got of MY $6000.oo was some little $345.oo, because they kept the rest stating in a letter that followed, that i owed $5653.oo with no mention of the 6 months worth of $200.oo which totaled $1200.oo that they should have subtracted from their version of of a $5653.oo overpayment that i didnt receive to begin with.
    Honestly, i feel as tho I’ve been Robbed by the SSA. Don’t they care about us at all? i guess not. I was in such need, and i still am. i needed that $6000.oo for insurance, smog and registration plus a set of tires for my vehicle. im completely disabled and cannot walk. That vehicle is my only means of transportation and the only way I have to help myself feel relief of any kind. but needless 2 say, once again the SSA people have taken the possibility of my being able to take care of myself at least, and its not asking much. just 2 be able 2 drive myself around and get 2 the grocery store etc….. all because of their greedy, lying, misuse of power and Authority. Because when they take away your only source of income, you can cry, beg, and do whatever you want, and it doesn’t matter 2 them or anybody, that you don’t deserve that kind of disrespectful cruelty, or that you are suffering beyond what They could handle and maintain a life through such dire circumstances. But its what it does to a person deep inside 2 feel so useless, helpless, and disposable. Like Worthless.
    I truly tried to get a job so i would never be at their mercy again. But in all that 32 months, Nobody would hire me. So i finally had 2 reapply. Just before my last surgery. And now after they kept my $6000.oo i had an $8000.oo electric bill. i could’ve taken care of my vehicle issues and paid the rest on my bills. But if i were somebody else, i guess I would just be able to do something stupid and illegal or something, cuz im sorry 2 say that my Grandmother would be turning in her grave.
    im not sure if anybody who has the ability to help anybody out here who has experienced these kinds of problems or not. But I just wanted 2 know what if anything are they gonna do 2 help those of us who have been through this with them already and if anyone can help me be reimbursed at least that initial $1200.oo that they neglected 2 credit me from that supposed overpayment that I never had 2 begin with.

    Reply
    • Miss M.

      You should call those greedy evil tricks up and tell them that you have financial.problems. Or you can go online if possible fill out those scrappy fight fir your money form call RECONSIDERATION so you won’t have to pay anything back! It’s a damn shame that everybody treated like this with our OWN MONEY. Perhaps if our last name been Ukraine ir Migrant we eould have been treated with far more dignity.

      Reply
      • American

        👍

        Reply
    • Joanna L.

      Similar situation here? Don’t give up on what’s YOUR’S. Keep calling your local agency. Don’t get emotional and try to stay factual!!! Good Luck and God Bless

      Reply
  10. Dena R.

    My son received overpayment at the end of 2021. SSA started the process of putting his benefits under his SS from under mine. Through the whole process I had to resend in YEARS of paystubs that had already been faxed in every two weeks. They CONTINUED to tell me that they would not change his benefits unless it would benefit my son. So when we received a check in the mail, I thought it must have benefited him. Next day I called SSA to ask about the check and was told the it was money due to my son because of the switch to his social security. When I received another small amount I again called and told them about BOTH CHECKS, both times I was told the money was owed to him. A year and a half later I received the 1st overpayment letter. Called and was told to complete documents, i completed both waiver and appeal since I was not getting any help. It is now end of March 2024 and now they want the whole amount. They want a meeting in two weeks. They have had since the end of 2021 to make their case and they are giving me 2 weeks. When I called and asked for the calls to be pulled when I called twice after receiving check, will call her GAYLE @ SSA Overpayment #, SAID to me, “that is not how it works. We do not keep calls and that is not how I handle my cases. I was EXTREMELY calm the whole time I was on the phone with GAYLE, she on the other hand was combative, rude, and argumentative. She said I am not going to argue with you, I just said, “I am asking question for my case, very calming. I am not arguing with you, but you are being rude to me.” It is unbelievable to me. I did everything right. Calling TWICE!! I was told by Micheal that if the two people I called and spoke to about the check would have done a bit more research they would have seen that we were only owed around (he gave me a specific amount), not the amount we got. Now I have to pay for an attorney to prove that we can not repay and it was not our fault. I understand everyone makes mistakes BUT 1st mistake – the wrong amount sent out, someone entered the wrong amount somewhere!
    2nd mistake – my 1st call asking why we received the check!
    3rd mistake – the second call asking why again. Neither time did the employee look into it any further than reading a damn screen that had the same letter attached to the check, we owe you the money.
    This was not our mistake. And when I call and finally, (yes finally because I was hung up on six times saying we are too busy, call back another time after being on hold for 15 mins – to 40 mins. for each of the six calls) and get Gayle she was a complete BLANK! I just can not believe that it is ok for their employees to act like this. I am so frustrated with the time, energy, etc you have to waste to be treated like a piece of crap.

    Reply
    • S.D.

      We’re sorry to hear about your experience, Dena. For your son’s security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. To learn about the most recent updates to our overpayment recovery process, please read our blog. We encourage you to continue to work with your local Social Security office. You can ask to speak with a supervisor on your next call or visit. 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 complaint, compliment, or suggestion. We hope this is resolved soon.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Please review our Comment Policy before leaving a comment. For your safety, please do not post Personally Identifiable Information (such as your Social Security Number, address, phone number, email address, bank account number, or birthdate) on our blog.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *