By: Charles D. Hankey

On occasion, Social Security will accidentally pay someone more than they should. This is known as an overpayment. The over paid amount then becomes a debt that the person who was overpaid is expected to pay back.

There are two types of overpayments; entitlement overpayments, and deduction overpayments. Entitlement overpayments are when Social Security pays a person money to which they are not entitled, or pays them more than they are entitled to. For example, if a person collects widows benefits, but Social Security later finds out they were never married, that would be an entitlement overpayment. The more common type of overpayment, a deduction overpayment, happens when something changes the amount of benefits a person is entitled to, and Social Security is not informed. An example of this overpayment would be if a person collecting SSD returned to work and did not inform Social Security.

Social Security will seek repayment of overpaid benefits from the person collecting benefits, their spouse, their payee, their estate if they are deceased, and anyone else receiving benefits on their earnings record.

In order to avoid an overpayment, please make sure to immediately report any of the following events to Social Security;

  • Change of address
  • Change of living arrangements including marital status, the death of a member of your household, the addition of a new person living in your household, stays of 90 days or longer in a hospital or nursing home, admission to/release from prison or jail.
  • Changes in income
  • Leaving the country for more than 30 days
  • Improvement in your medical condition
  • Return to work

It is important to keep good records of any such events, and records of when you notified Social Security about them. Keeping accurate records can be the difference between repaying an overpayment and not.

If you get a notice of overpayment, there are two things you can do about it. You can file a Waiver of Overpayment, which is a request that Social Security waive their right to get the overpayment back, and/or you can request reconsideration. It is best if you do both simultaneously. You must do one of these two things within 30 days to obtain relief from recoupment. To request interim benefits and to avoid being terminated pending appeal a request must be made within 10 days. The 10 day rule is based both on due process and statute.