Across the country, millions of Americans receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration have received letters telling them they have been overpaid and must return some of the money. Many of these notices from SSA claim that individuals owe tens of thousands of dollars.
In total, SSA says it was owed $21.6 billion in overpayments as of fiscal year 2022. Most of the money was distributed through its Supplement Security Income program for low-income disabled adults without sufficient work history to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance. This has caused shock among many SSI recipients and their families as they struggle to work out how to repay huge bills. Most of the time, the money is long since spent, and few SSI beneficiaries have the resources to pay thousands of dollars.
What caused these errors?
SSA admits that many of the overpayments were due to its own errors. But often, recipients have been overpaid for months or years due to honest mistakes they or their parents or guardians made. Common reasons for these errors include:
- The complex series of rules that SSI beneficiaries must follow to get approved and stay on their disability benefits.
- The limits on what beneficiaries can earn in income and still qualify have not been adjusted for inflation in many years.
- When someone makes a mistake, SSA often does not catch it for years, compounding the problem by not giving the recipient the chance to come into compliance promptly. This is largely due to understaffing, old-fashioned systems and relying on beneficiaries to supply income data.
Whether SSA claims you or a loved one has received overpayments or you want to minimize the risk of this happening in the future, talking with an SSDI/SSI attorney can help.