If Social Security denies your request to waive an overpayment, then your next step depends on whether you are receiving SSI or SSDI. (An overpayment is when you receive more benefits than you are entitled to; for information on how to request a waiver, see our article about overpayments.)
SSI recipients can ask for reconsideration of a request to waive an overpayment. To do that, contact your local Social Security office and tell the representative that you want to request reconsideration of the waiver decision. Use the Request for Reconsideration form (SSA-561) to file your request.
When you fill out the Request for Reconsideration form, you will have a choice of asking Social Security to reconsider your case using a case review, an informal conference, or a formal conference. You will need to check a box on the form to indicate your choice.
In a case review, a Social Security employee reviews your file.
An informal conference is a chance for you to sit down with a Social Security employee to tell your side of the story about why you should not have to repay the overpayment. You can bring witnesses to an informal conference.
At a formal conference, Social Security can force witnesses to attend and can make them bring documents you need.
In most cases, claimants want to request at least an informal conference so that they can speak with someone at Social Security about why they should get a waiver.
You must file your Request for Reconsideration within 60 days of the date you received the letter telling you that Social Security denied your request to waive the overpayment. (See the note about how Social Security calculates appeal deadlines below.) However, if you file your Request for Reconsideration within 30 days, Social Security will not try to collect the overpayment from you while it makes a decision about your reconsideration request.
Denial of Reconsideration
If Social Security denies your Request for Reconsideration, you can appeal that decision. For information about how to continue your SSI overpayment appeal, see the appeal instructions for SSDI recipients below (you'll continue by requesting a hearing).
If you receive SSDI, Social Security does not have a reconsideration step if it denies your request to waive an overpayment. Instead, you can appeal the decision by requesting a hearing.
Requesting a Hearing
To file your appeal from a denial of a waiver request, fill out a Request for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge form (HA-501), and turn it in at your local Social Security office within sixty days of receiving your denial. The ALJ hearing will be similar in format to ALJ hearings to determine disability issues. The hearing can be held in person or by phone or video-conference, and you can ask Social Security to subpoena witnesses or documents for you to help show that the overpayment should be waived.
Further Levels Of Appeal
If the ALJ denies your request to waive your overpayment, then you can appeal to the Appeals Council. To do that, submit a Request for Review of Hearing Decision/Order (HA-520) within 60 days of receiving the ALJ decision. The Appeals Council will review the ALJ’s decision and either deny your request to review the ALJ decision, issue another decision in your case, or remand (send back) the case to the ALJ.
If the Appeals Council denies your request for review, you can appeal by filing a complaint in Federal District Court. You must file your appeal within 60 days of receiving the Appeals Council denial. You will need an attorney to file a federal court complaint.
A Note About Appeal Deadlines
Social Security appeal deadlines run from the date that you receive a notice. Social Security presumes that you receive its notices five days from the mailing date listed on the first page of the notice. If you received your notice more than five days after that date, and you file your appeal more than 65 days from the date, then you will have to prove to Social Security that you received your notice late or that you have other good cause for appealing late. Don’t put yourself in that position. Submit your appeal forms as soon as you get your denial notice.
How Social Security Collects Overpayments
If you receive SSI, Social Security cannot take more than 10% of your monthly benefit to pay down an overpayment. If you receive SSDI, Social Security can take your whole check each month to pay down an overpayment. Both SSI and SSDI recipients, however, can ask for Social Security to set up an affordable repayment agreement. When Social Security is considering whether to approve a payment agreement for a SSDI recipient, it will want an agreement that results in the overpayment being paid off within three years. For more information, see our article on how Social Security treats overpayments.