Too Much Social Security: How To Prevent And Respond To Benefit Overpayments

Several situations may lead to your receiving an overpayment of Social Security benefits. There are rules that you may not be aware of when you begin drawing payments from Social Security.

You should know how to protect yourself from being overpaid, how to find out what the rules are for your situation, and how to contest an overpayment claim by the Social Security Administration.

Be transparent: keep the SSA office informed of any and all changes.

Any additional income added to your household budget can change how your benefits are calculated. If your nephew moves in and starts helping you with the utility bills, you must report this change if you are receiving need-based SSI benefits.

If you receive a pension from another source not covered by Social Security, you may be subject to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) or Government Pension Offset (GPO) which may significantly reduce the amount you're eligible to receive from Social Security.

By keeping the SSA current on your contact information, your direct deposit data, and your income changes, you will help prevent social security overpayments that must be repaid to avoid additional penalties.

If you're unsure of the rules, consult the experts.

The SSA has an informative website that answers many questions you may have about your SS payments. The site has calculators to determine what your monthly SS payment amount will be under various conditions, including under WEP rules; if you take early retirement; and if you work and earn over a certain amount per year while on SS.

If the website doesn't answer your questions, try to contact a representative from the SSA and ask them to explain to you how the rules impact your benefits. The benefits representatives are often very busy, so be patient and expect to wait a bit to be served whether you visit their office or give them a call.

Another option is to contact an attorney who is knowledgeable about the rules governing SS payments. If you have been found to have been overpaid by the SSA, it may be worth it to have a competent lawyer examine the paperwork. You will have to formally waive the overpayment decision or make a payment plan to return the excess funds.

You'll be given the benefit of the doubt on old overpayment claims.

SSA workers have been advised that they must show definite proof of overpayments for older cases. Since you only have 60 days to appeal an overpayment decision, many older cases are past the point of being appealed. An emergency message was recently issued that tells SSA workers exactly what they must do when you ask to have your overpayment case waived.

The SSA representatives for your overpayment case must give you the benefit of the doubt if they cannot produce the required documentation. If you are certain you were not overpaid, it's a good idea to hire a professional who understands the requirements. Having the legal counsel of a social security attorney can help you avoid unfair repayment if you are unsure how to assert your innocence.