Despite the automated procedures the SSA puts in place, occasional errors are inevitable. And with about 63 million people receiving social security benefits each month, we can’t really blame them. Basically, there are two types of social security payment errors that can happen to you: underpayment or overpayment. The most common reason for these errors is a failure on the beneficiary’s part to report life changes that can affect benefit amounts. This includes a rise in income, the death of a family member or becoming eligible for a larger benefit. Once the SSA determines that they’ve made an error in calculating your benefit payment, they’ll take the necessary steps to correct it. If you received more than what you should, you need to return the overpayment to SSA. On the other hand, you have the right to demand the lacking amount in case of underpayments. Whether you’re overpaid or underpaid, here is how you can sort out social security payment errors:
Overpayments are more common than underpayments. If the SSA overpays you, they’ll usually send a notice detailing the following:
- the reason for the error
- your repayment option
- your rights to appeal or waiver
Filing an Appeal
If you disagree with the SSA’s overpayment notice, you can file an appeal by submitting Form SSA-561. You can also call or visit any SSA Office nearest you. Explain why you think there was no overpayment or that the amount is wrong. Remember that you only have 60 days from receipt of the notice to file an appeal.
Requesting for Waiver
If you agree that there was an overpayment but think you shouldn’t pay for the overpayment, you can file Form SSA-632 to request for waiver. The SSA usually grants the waiver if you can prove that the overpayment was not your fault and you don’t have the capacity to pay it back. Unlike an appeal, there is no time limit for requesting a waiver.
If you are willing to pay back the overpayment but cannot afford the payment terms set forth in the notice, you can ask the SSA for other repayment options. Just fill up Form SSA-634 and submit it to your local SSA office.
What Happens If You Ignore the Overpayment Notice?
Ignoring the overpayment notice does not cancel your responsibility for repaying it. If you fail to make a full refund within 30 days, the SSA will withhold your benefit payments until the debt is satisfied. If you’re not receiving benefits anymore, the amount will be deducted from your:
- federal income tax refund
- wages (if you’re working)
- future SSI or other social security benefits
In addition, the SSA can report the delinquency to credit bureaus.
Most of the time, the SSA will not notify you of any underpayments. So it is your responsibility to keep track of how much you should receive each month. If your benefit payment is lesser than what you’re supposed to, you need to report it to the SSA immediately. Just go to any SSA office near you and request for a refund. If you have any overpayments, the SSA may deduct that to come up with the net amount payable to you. This automated netting has been implemented by the agency since September 2002. The agency usually sends you a netting notice if netting has been done. For underpayments less than $1, no refunds will be issued. Any refund you will receive shall not form part of your SSI income. Individuals under the No Social Security Benefits for Prisoners (NSSBP) provision won’t be able to receive underpayments until they can establish that they have been released.
(Related: HOW TO UPDATE YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY RECORD AFTER BECOMING A CITIZEN)
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a writer and editor for the Victor Malca Law P.A. website and blog. She enjoys helping people in need with questions about social security disability and workers compensation law. She has a passion for helping those in need and the elderly with accurate legal information that can make a positive difference in their lives.