Social Security overpayments are problematic for recipients

For those living with a disability, everyday tasks can feel like a great deal of work, including those that many people take for granted. Making ends meet can often feel impossible. When someone with a disability relies on Social Security Disability income to cover his or her general living expenses, it is common to live on a strict budget. Unforeseen bills can cause a great deal of stress.

Now, for an estimated 36,000 Americans, errors allegedly made by the Social Security Administration mean massive amounts of unexpected debt, as reported by CNN Money, New York. According to reports by the Government Accountability Office, a "government watchdog agency," it is estimated that $1.3 billion in Social Security Disability payments has been overpaid over the course of the last two years.

To put it in perspective, the Social Security Administration's most recent monthly statistical snapshot indicates that in September 2013, the administration paid out over $10 million in Social Security Disability benefits.

The Social Security Disability overpayments are reported to result from a variety of causes. In some cases, recipients of the benefits were being paid, even though their income exceeded the $1,000 monthly limit during the initial five-month waiting period. CNN Money tells the story of one man who was working as a physician during the waiting period, earning in excess of $22,000 some months, and received over $90,000 in Social Security Disability overpayments over the course of three years.

In other cases, payments were reported to be improperly dispersed to people who were allowed to work for a nine-month trial period after qualifying for Social Security Disability. One woman claimed to have received $74,000 in payments after the trial period ended, and she was still working.

The Social Security Administration is in the process of investigating and sorting out the potential overpayment issue, however, the administration reports that while 36,000 people seems like a large number, it represents only one percent of the recipients. Therefore, the administration claims that they have a 99 percent accuracy rate for their payments. Still, News Channel 3, WKTR.com reports concerns expressed by a representative from the National Disability Rights Network's Social Security program. She explains that while the government is quick to blame recipients for the overpayments, failures within the system are to blame. She states that many payments have been made to "innocent people who don't realize they are being overpaid or have tried to stop the erroneous payments."

The issue of overpayment by the Social Security Administration is not a new one, as the New York Times reported in 2011 that the Social Security Administration dispersed over $6.5 billion in overpayments in 2009.

What to do if you believe you have been overpaid

If you feel you have received a Social Security Disability payment in error, it is important that you contact the administration right away. Many who have been overpaid have received "surprise" letters by the administration, seeking to recoup thousands of dollars overpaid years ago, and often, the money has already been spent by the recipient. The administration provides a detailed process to dispute alleged overpayment, and there is a possibility of a waiver, for those who qualify.

If you have received an overpayment notice, if you receive Social Security Disability income, if you feel you have been improperly denied benefits, or if you do not yet receive benefits you feel you are entitled to, an experienced Social Security Disability attorney can help you navigate what is often a very confusing process. Contact our office today for assistance.