Addressing SSI Overpayments in Depth

 Sara Toor, M.A. & Cameron Lindahl, M.S. 

What is an Overpayment?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) describes an overpayment as an individual receiving more money for a month than the amount an individual should have received. Basically, the amount of the overpayment is the difference between the amount the individual received and the actual amount due.

Triggers for an Overpayment
There is a list of triggers that could cause an individual to receive an overpayment. The causes for an overpayment include:

  • An individual’s income is more than what he/she estimated it to be.
  • An individual’s living arrangements/situation changes.
  • Marital status changes.
  • An individual’s resources are more than the limit allowed per the Social Security Administration.
  • An individual is no longer considered disabled and continues to receive benefits.
  • A necessary required notice of certain change(s) was not reported on time or at all to the Social Security Administration.

How Does SSA Handle Overpayments?
According to the Social Security Administration website,, if the Social Security Administration (SSA) discovers an overpayment they will send out a notice to the individual requesting a full refund back to SSA within 30 days or if an individual is still currently receiving benefit payments the notice will propose to “withhold the overpayment at the rate of the lesser of 10% or the entire monthly payment,” Understanding SSI Home Page / Understanding Supplemental Security Income Overpayments).

In addition, in the notice there will be information consisting of:

  • The month in which the withholding will begin,
  • Explanation of an individual’s rights to appeal,
  • Explanation on how an individual can request waiver,
  • Explanation on how an individual can appeal the Social Security Administration’s decision.

Responding to an Overpayment Notice
Responding to an overpayment notice is crucial, as it is time sensitive to act, whether it is requesting a waiver, requesting a reconsideration, or requesting an appeal. It usually states on the notice that an individual can file an appeal in writing within 60 days within receipt of notice. It will also state that if the individual appeals within 10 days of from the date of receiving the overpayment notice, any benefit payment the Social Security Administration (SSA) is making will continue to make until a final determination is made.

Requesting a waiver can be done at any time, and for the waiver to be granted an individual must explain and show to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that the overpayment was not his/her fault and paying back the overpayment is not feasible due to needing the money to meet living expenses. The Social Security Administration (SSA) may request submission of bills to show that monthly expenses use up all of one’s income therefore, causes hardship to repay overpayment.

What Happens if a Request for Waiver is not Granted?
If the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies an individual’s waiver, he/she can request a reconsideration. If the waiver is denied continuously the overpayment must be paid back or withheld from monthly benefit payments. An individual can request a lesser amount to be withheld from his/her monthly benefit payment or arrange to make monthly payments if he/she no longer receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit payments.

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), if an individual no longer receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI), they may withhold overpayment from a Federal Income Tax Refund and/or from any future Social Security benefits an individual receives. In addition, in the future, if an individual becomes eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit payments they will withhold the overpayment from future Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit payments.

What If All Else Fails?
If all other avenues have been attempted, the last resort seems to be filing for bankruptcy. The Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) position on this is clear that they will halt all collection of the overpayment that is due in addition, halting the reduction of monthly payment for those who were still receiving SSI or SSDI benefit payments. For more information, please refer to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) Program Operations Manual System (POMS), specifically, SI 02220.040 and GN 02215.190B.

We strongly urge if you or someone you know is going through this dilemma with the Social Security Administration (SSA) regarding an overpayment issue, to please reach out and seek guidance from a Special Needs Planning Attorney in your area.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided by CPT is for informational purposes only and is intended to be used as a non-legal guide prior to consultation with an attorney familiar with your specific legal situation. CPT is not engaged in the practice of law or in rendering legal advice or counsel. No such legal advice or counseling is either expressly or impliedly intended. This form is not a substitute for the advice or counsel of an attorney. If you require legal advice, you should seek the services of an attorney. © 2017 CPT All rights reserved.

Resources/Further Reading:

Lillesand, D. (2012). Dealing with SSI overpayments: Avoiding, defending, reducing and   destroying. Elder Law and Disability Forum, 1-22.

Urbatsch, K. & Fuller, M. (2017, July 19). SSI advanced topics: Working while on SSI & appealing adverse SSA decisions [PowerPoint presentation].