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Fighting a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability (SSDI) Overpayment Notice

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded

7403EN - 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.

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Introduction

Is the Social Security Administration charging you with an overpayment? If so, Social Security believes you got benefits when you were not eligible to get them. They must notify you in writing of the overpayment before they 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, if:

  • You do not agree you were overpaid OR

  • You do not agree with the amount of overpayment

You appeal by filing SSA Form 561, "Request Reconsideration." https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-561.pdf  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 they make a decision on your request.

How do I request reconsideration?

You may request reconsideration at your Social Security office, 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, in writing.

Can I ask for a waiver?

You may ask Social Security to waive (excuse you from paying) 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 your overpayment if you meet its 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 at http://www.ssa.gov.

For Social Security to grant a waiver, you must be able to show both of these:

  • you are "without fault" in causing the overpayment

  •  Making you pay it back would "defeat the purpose" of the Social Security Act OR "be against equity and good conscience

If both of those are true, Social Security should grant your waiver request.

"Fault" means one of these: 

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

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

  • 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 for the SSA to recover the overpayment.

If Social Security denies your waiver request, you may request that they reconsider that decision by filing SSA Form 561, "Request Reconsideration."  Do this at your local Social Security office, or 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 the 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 can ask for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). SSA must get your request for a hearing within 60 days of the written reconsideration denial. You must fill out and file 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 several months after you have asked for it. You may have a lawyer or non-lawyer represent you at the hearing. If you have a lawyer, make sure s/he lawyer explains his/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 info that is in your file and any info you provide. You may testify and have witnesses testify. You may 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 what 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 before making a decision.

Can 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.



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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 December 2016.

© 2016 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.)

Last Review and Update: Jan 20, 2017
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