In Elder Law News

A view of the SSA website homepage with magnifying glass.With a new commissioner at the helm, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has been announcing several policy changes in recent weeks. In late March 2024, the SSA issued news regarding the way it handles overpayments to Social Security recipients.

Can Social Security Take Your Whole Check for Overpayment?

The SSA is required by law to attempt to recoup any overpayments it has issued to people, even if these overpayments were made by mistake. To accomplish this, the SSA in many cases would withhold entire checks from recipients it had overpaid.

For millions of vulnerable people, this meant losing out, sometimes altogether, on crucial financial support. Even if an individual could not afford to pay back the overpayment, they might not receive their benefits for months at a time. Over the past year, numerous media outlets nationwide have been covering the personal stories behind these Social Security clawback procedures and their repercussions.

Many people were subsequently finding “themselves facing homelessness or unable to pay bills because Social Security withheld their entire payment for recovery of an overpayment,” Martin O’Malley, the new Social Security Commissioner, said in a press release. O'Malley, confirmed in December 2023, succeeded former acting Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi.

Changes to Overpayment Rules

Under the new rules, the SSA is modifying its overpayment withholding rate from 100 percent of monthly Social Security benefits to “a much more reasonable” 10 percent (or $10 – whichever is greater). This rule became effective on March 25, 2024.

In certain circumstances, a Social Security recipient may receive an overpayment – that is, more than their typical monthly benefit. For example, your marital status may have changed, which can affect the amount of your benefits payment. You may have followed the rules and notified the SSA about this change, but a delay could have led to an improper calculation.

Sometimes, such overpayments are a result of a mistake that the SSA has made that it doesn’t catch until years later. As part of the newly announced changes, the SSA has stated that Social Security recipients who have received overpayments will no longer have to take on the burden of proving to the SSA that they are not at fault.

In addition, the SSA will be revamping its processes regarding repayment. For one, the SSA says it will make requesting a waiver of repayment easier for people who are not at fault for their overpayments. (Note that the SSA still also allows recipients of overpayments to go through an appeals process.) And, whereas it previously sought repayments within three years, the SSA will now approve repayment plans of up to five years.

Whom to Contact With Questions

If the SSA has sent you an overpayment notice, consider consulting a qualified elder law attorney in your area. They can offer guidance on your next best course of action. Find an elder law attorney near you today.

You may already be repaying the SSA for an overpayment. If so, you can contact the agency to modify the terms of your repayment plan. The Social Security Administration phone number is 800-772-1213. Or search online for your local Social Security office.

For additional information on Social Security benefits, check out the following articles:

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