How to Fight a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability (SSDI) Overpayment Notice

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded
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Is the Social Security Administration charging you with an overpayment? If so, Social Security believes that you got benefits when you were not eligible to get them. They must notify you in writing of the overpayment before they may take any money from your check. You may take four different actions if you get an overpayment notice. You may take any or all four.

Can I appeal the overpayment?

Yes, when:

  • You do not agree that you were overpaid OR

  • You do not agree with the amount of overpayment

You may appeal by filing SSA Form 561, "Request Reconsideration."  You have 60 days from the date of the overpayment notice to request reconsideration. If you do so within 30 days of getting your notice, Social Security will not take any money out of your check until a decision on your request is made.

How do I request reconsideration?

You may request reconsideration at your Social Security office, or call them and ask for the form to do so, or get the form online at www.ssa.gov. When you turn the form in, you should also give Social Security evidence to show that they did not overpay you. A different worker will make the reconsideration decision. It must be in writing.

May I ask for a waiver?

You may ask Social Security to waive the overpaid amount by filing SSA Form 632, "Request for Waiver of Overpayment Recovery or Change in Repayment Rate." You may ask for this at any time, even after Social Security starts collecting the overpayment from you.
Asking for a waiver is asking Social Security not to collect the overpayment from you. Social Security may waive a Social Security or SSI overpayment if you meet the standards for waiver. You may apply for a waiver at the Social Security office, or call them and ask for the form to do so. Or get the form online at http://www.ssa.gov.

In order for Social Security to grant a waiver:

  • You must show you are "without fault" in causing the overpayment AND

  • You must show either that recovery (making you pay it back) would "defeat the purpose" of the Social Security Act or "be against equity and good conscience

If you meet both standards, SSA should grant your waiver request.

"Fault" means: 

  • You did not provide information you knew or should have known was important OR

  • You made an incorrect statement you knew or should have known was incorrect OR

  • You did not return a payment you knew or should have known was incorrect

You meet the "Defeat the Purpose" test if you need your income and resources to meet your necessary and ordinary living expenses. Social Security is more likely to grant your waiver request if you do not have extra money in the bank or extra income left over after paying your living expenses. Ordinary and necessary living expenses include food, clothing, housing costs (house or rent payments, utilities, insurance, taxes, maintenance), medical expenses, support obligations, and other miscellaneous expenses that you can reasonably consider a part of your standard of living.

"Against Equity and Good Conscience" means you have given up a valuable right or changed your position for the worse, or it would be unfair under the circumstances for the SSA to recover the overpayment.

If Social Security denies your waiver request, you may request that Social Security reconsider their decision by filing SSA Form 561, "Request Reconsideration."  Do this at your local Social Security office, call them and ask for the form, or get it online. SSA must get your request for reconsideration within 60 days of the date of their written denial of waiver. A different worker will review your request and make a decision.

Further Appeal Rights

If Social Security denies your request for reconsideration, you may ask for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). SSA must get your request for a hearing within 60 days of SSA's written reconsideration denial. You may make your request for an ALJ hearing by filing SSA Form HA501 "Request for Hearing before an ALJ."  You can do this at the Social Security office, call them and ask for the form, or get the form online at www.ssa.gov.

The ALJ will notify you of your hearing time and date. The hearing will be scheduled several months after you have asked for it. You may have a lawyer or a non-lawyer represent you at the hearing. If you have a lawyer, make sure the lawyer explains his or her fee.
Before the hearing, you have the right to review and copy your file at the Social Security hearing office. You will get a letter telling you your file is ready for review. Call them at the number at the top of the letter and make an appointment to copy your file.

At the hearing, the ALJ will have only the information that is in your file and any information you provide. You may testify and also have witnesses testify. You may also give the judge more documents. Your testimony and your witnesses' testimony is evidence. So are any other documents you give the judge.  Make a list before the hearing of the things you want to tell the judge.

After the hearing, the ALJ will mail you a written decision. This will usually be within a few months after the hearing.

If you do not agree with the ALJ's decision you may appeal further to the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council by filing SSA Form HA520, "Request for Review of Decision/Order of Administrative Law Judge."  You must submit your request within 60 days of the date on the ALJ's written decision. You may make the request at the SSA office, call and ask them to send you the form, or get the form online.

*You may appeal an adverse Appeals Council decision to Federal District Court. You must file an appeal to the Federal District Court within 60 days of the Appeals Council's written decision.  

What if my Appeal or Waiver is denied?

You may ask Social Security to reduce (lower) your rate of repayment based on your present financial situation. Weigh your income against your expenses. Decide how much you can afford to have taken out of your check each month. Ask Social Security to take only that amount out of your check each month. Social Security will ask you for documentation of your income and expenses, and will make a decision.

May I pay back only part of the overpayment?

Maybe. If you have an overpayment but are not currently getting Social Security benefits, you may be able to compromise the overpayment amount. This means you may offer to pay less than the full amount of the overpayment. SSA will not compromise the overpayment if you still have the money, or if you were found to be at fault in causing the overpayment. Make your offer of compromise in writing to your Social Security office.


This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice.
This information is current as of September 2015.

© 2015 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014
(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to  individuals for non-commercial purposes only.)