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Avoiding and Managing SSI/SSDI Overpayments

SSI/SSDI overpayments may cause undue hardship for beneficiaries who are experiencing or at-risk for homelessness. This article provides tips for avoiding overpayments and steps to follow in the overpayment appeal/waiver process.

What is an Overpayment?

An overpayment is when a beneficiary receives more money for a month than the amount they should have been paid. The amount of the overpayment is the difference between the amount the beneficiary received and the amount due.
  • If the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines that a beneficiary has been overpaid, they will provide a written notice to the beneficiary and their representative payee (if applicable)
  • The written notice will include the reason for overpayment, the overpayment amount, repayment options, and appeal/waiver rights

How do Overpayments Occur?

Overpayments occur differently for SSI and SSDI recipients, due to differences in program rules.
 
SSI overpayments may arise due to:
  • Increases in earned or unearned income that isn’t reported to SSA
  • Changes in living situation or marital status
  • Having more resources than the allowable limit
  • An error in calculating the benefit amount due to incorrect or incomplete information at SSA
SSDI overpayments may arise due to:

How to Avoid Overpayments

Promptly report changes in income to SSA (both SSI and SSDI beneficiaries):

When beneficiaries begin working, they should let SSA know right away and continue to report their wages to SSA during the first six days of each month to decrease the chance of incurring an overpayment.

SSI beneficiaries can report earnings using any of the following methods:

    • SSI Telephone Wage Reporting (SSITWR) System, which is a quick and easy way to report monthly earnings by phone
    • SSI Mobile Wage Reporting (SSIMWR) application, which allows reporting of the total gross monthly wages for the prior month using an Apple or Android mobile device
    • myWageReport, which allows beneficiaries to report thier monthly earnings online via their my Social Security account
  • SSI beneficiaries can also mail or bring copies of their pay stubs to their local SSA field office during the first six days of the month.
SSDI beneficiaries can report their work earnings to their local SSA field office by phone or by mailing or bringing copies of their pay stubs to their local SSA office. SSDI beneficiaries can also use myWageReport, which allows them to report thier monthly earnings via their online my Social Security account.
 
Regardless of which method an SSI/SSDI beneficiary chooses to report wages, they can sign up online to receive monthly e-mail or text message wage reporting reminders

Report changes to living situation or marital status as soon as they occur (SSI beneficiaries only):

Changes to living situation or marital status can affect the SSI payment amount due to a beneficiary. 

Example: Joe moves in with his parents who provide both food and shelter free of charge. He doesn’t report this living situation to SSA and as a result is receiving the full SSI federal benefit rate while his check should have been reduced by one-third to offset the support he receives. When SSA discovers this information, they will send Joe a notice that he was overpaid by one-third during the months he lived with his parents.

Be aware of how resources affect eligibility for SSI payments:

SSI payments are intended to cover an individual’s food, shelter, and basic needs, and is meant for those who meet the medical criteria for disability and who have limited income and resources. As such, there are limits to the amount of resources an individual can have to maintain this eligibility.

  • Any month in which the beneficiary has resources over the limit, they will be ineligible for an SSI payment
    • Receiving an SSI payment in this month will be considered an overpayment
  • Not all resources are counted when determining eligibility – the article SSA-8000, Part III: Resources has additional information about what is counted and uncounted
  • Beneficiaries may spend down cash resources by paying for exempt items related to basic needs such as paying medical bills and other debts, getting medical care not covered by insurance such as dental care, buying a car, or buying basic household items such as furniture and appliances. 

How to Manage SSI/SSDI Overpayments: Appeal Rights

If a beneficiary feels that they were not overpaid, or disagrees with the amount due, they can file an appeal of the overpayment decision within 60 days of the overpayment notice.
 
Steps in the overpayment appeal process:
    • For the “Issue Being Appealed” section, note that this is for an overpayment of benefits
    • Beneficiaries should explain why they think they have not been overpaid, or why the amount is incorrect
  1. SSA will stop recovering the overpayment from the beneficiary’s SSI or SSDI payment while making the appeal decision
  2. SSA will notify the beneficiary of the decision. If unsuccessful, the beneficiary can work with SSA to set up a payment plan

How to Manage SSI/SSDI Overpayments: Request for a Waiver

If the beneficiary feels they were not at fault for causing the overpayment and if it would cause financial hardship, they can request a waiver of overpayment or reduction in the payment amount. There is no time limit for filing this waiver.
 
Steps in the overpayment waiver process:
  1. If the overpayment was $1000 or less, SSA may be able to approve the waiver request without the need for a waiver form. If this applies, call the local SSA office and initiate a request for an overpayment waiver
  2. File the SSA-632-BK: Request For Waiver Of Overpayment Recovery Or Change In Repayment Rate (PDF) form if the overpayment amount is over $1000 or if requested by SSA
    • In question 2, if the beneficiary is requesting a full waiver of the overpayment amount, check the top box labeled, “The overpayment was not my fault and I cannot afford to pay the money back and/or it is unfair for some other reasons.” If the beneficiary is requesting a reduction in payment, check boxes B-D as applicable
    • In question 5, provide details about how the beneficiary did not intentionally cause the overpayment and why paying the money back would cause a financial hardship
    • In Section II, provide detailed information about the beneficiary’s finances and resources, which will be used to show financial hardship
  3. SSA will stop recovering the overpayment from the beneficiary’s SSI or SSDI payment while making the appeal decision
  4. SSA will notify the beneficiary of the decision. If unsuccessful, the beneficiary can work with SSA to set up a payment plan
For a successful waiver application, beneficiaries must prove that:
  1. The overpayment was not their fault (i.e. they did not intentionally withhold information), and
  2. Paying the money back would cause financial hardship because they need the money for ordinary living expenses
    • Documenting limited resources and income for SSI beneficiaries who are experiencing or at-risk of homelessness helps show financial hardship

Options for Repayment

In the event that a beneficiary’s appeal or waiver of overpayment is unsuccessful, they can work with SSA to set up a payment plan. Options include:
  • Withholding all or part of the SSDI check
  • Withholding 10% of each SSI check
If this payment amount causes financial hardship, the beneficiary can request that the repayment be reduced to a manageable amount (no less than $10/month).  
 
Additional Resource: