Can I Negotiate the Overpayment I Owe Social Security?

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If you receive a notice of overpayment from Social Security saying that it paid you too much disability benefits, review it carefully to understand why Social Security has issued it. If you disagree that you owe an overpayment at all, or if you think Social Security has calculated a larger overpayment than the one that you owe, then you should appeal the overpayment. If you think the overpayment is correct but you just can't afford to pay it back, then you can ask Social Security to let you pay a smaller amount each month, or even to waive the entire overpayment.

Appealing the Overpayment

If you disagree with the overpayment or the amount of the overpayment, file an appeal. To appeal, you fill out Social Security Form 561, Request for Reconsideration. There is a check box on the form called "Informal Conference" that you can use to ask for an informal conference to talk to a Social Security representative about your appeal.

The deadline for filing a request for reconsideration is 60 days from the day you received a notice of overpayment, but if you want to stop Social Security from starting to collect the overpayment (by reducing your disability check), you need to request reconsideration within 30 days. Pay attention to these deadlines; it is very difficult to get Social Security to review a late request for reconsideration.

If the SSA explained that you are no longer disabled and that is the reason for the overpayment, you may want to talk to a disability lawyer if you think you are still disabled.

Requesting a Waiver or Reduction of the Overpayment

If you agree that you received an overpayment from Social Security, and you think the agency has calculated the amount correctly, you can ask that Social Security to reduce or waive the overpayment in the following circumstances:

  • the overpayment was not your fault
  • you are unable to afford to pay back the overpayment, and
  • making you pay the overpayment would be unfair.

To ask Social Security to reduce your monthly payment or waive the entire debt, fill out the Social Security Form 632, Request for Waiver of Overpayment Recovery or Change in Repayment Rate (often called the waiver application). There is no deadline to file Form 632 – you can file it even after Social Security has already been collecting an overpayment from you for a long time. Once you file Form 632, Social Security should stop collecting the overpayment from you, for as long as it takes the agency to make a decision about your request.

Determining Fault

The first section of Form 632 asks you questions so that Social Security can determine whether you were at fault for the overpayment. Social Security must find that you were not at fault before it will waive repayment. To determine this, Social Security will be looking to see whether you provided false information or withheld information when you knew or should have known that it was wrong. For instance, if you receive SSI and you didn't report income that you received, it was your fault.

Even if the overpayment was Social Security's fault, if you didn't notify Social Security that you receiving too much, the agency will look at whether you knew or should have known that you could not keep the overpaid benefits.

If you have a disability or condition that contributed to the overpayment or your not noticing the overpayment, make sure to describe it in your waiver request. For instance, if Social Security made a mistake and sent you a bigger disability check than you were entitled to one month, but you didn't notice it because you have a cognitive problem, describe it in your waiver application. You should describe anything that affected the overpayment, like physical or mental problems or a language barrier.

Determining Whether You Can Afford to Repay the Overpayment

The second section of Form 632 asks for your household income and expenses. You must show that you have no money left over after paying your regular monthly expenses that you could use to pay back the overpayment. Make sure that you list all of your expenses on the form and that it accurately reflects your monthly finances. If the form shows that you have some money left every month, Social Security will wonder why that money should not be used to pay back the overpayment.

Filling Out the Form

You may need help filling out the waiver request form; if the overpayment was significant, consider hiring a disability attorney. You can also ask a Social Security rep at your local field office for help. If Social Security grants your waiver request, you won't have to repay all or part of the overpayment.

The SSA is likely to grant waiver requests for overpayments of a few hundred dollars if the overpayment was not your fault.

Even if it will not waive the entire overpayment, Social Security may decide to reduce the amount of your monthly payment to pay back the overpayment. Social Security will not accept a payment of less than $10 per month.

Appealing Social Security's Decision

If Social Security denies your request to waive the overpayment or reduce the payment amount, you have the right to appeal. Start your appeal by filing a Request for Reconsideration within 60 days.

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