What Will Social Security Do When It Finds an Overpayment

If Social Security pays you more than you're owed, Social Security will notify you that you need to repay the money.

By , Contributing Author
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Social Security overpayments of disability benefits can occur due to changes in your living circumstances or income, or the Social Security Administration (SSA) having insufficient information. If Social Security overpays you and discovers its error, you'll receive a notice of the overpayment. Your lawyer or nonlawyer representative, if you have one, will also be notified of the overpayment.

The notice of overpayment will include an explanation of why you have been overpaid, your repayment options, and your appeal and "waiver" rights.

How Does Social Security Collect Overpayments?

The repayment options available to you are dependent upon the type of benefit you're receiving.

How Do I Have to Repay an SSDI Overpayment?

If the SSA overpaid you Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and you're currently receiving SSDI benefits, the SSA will withhold the full amount of your benefit check each month until the overpayment is paid off. The withholding will start 30 days after you receive the notice of overpayment. You can contact the SSA to request that less than the full amount be withheld; such requests have to be approved by the SSA.

How Do I Have to Repay an SSI Overpayment?

If the SSA overpaid you Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and you're currently receiving SSI benefits, 10% of your monthly benefit will be withheld each month to repay the overpayment. (The 10% withholding is usually calculated on the federal maximum benefit rate, which is $841 in 2022, even if you normally receive more or less than that.)

This withholding will start no earlier than 60 days after you receive the notice of overpayment and will last until the overpayment is paid off. You can contact the SSA to request that more or less money be withheld; such requests must be approved by the SSA.

If you were overpaid SSI benefits but you currently only receive SSDI benefits, only 10% of your monthly SSDI benefits will be withheld to repay the overpayment.

What If I'm No Longer Receiving Benefits?

If you no longer receive any benefits from the SSA, you'll have to repay the overpayment out of your own money. You have two choices. You can either:

  • send a check for the full amount to the SSA within 30 days of receiving the notice of overpayment, or
  • call the SSA to set up a monthly repayment plan.

Are There Consequences for Not Repaying a Social Security Overpayment?

If you don't repay the overpayment that you owe to the SSA, the agency can take several steps to get the money that is owed. Some of the actions the SSA can take include:

  • taking your federal tax refund check
  • taking a percentage from your work paycheck before you get it (if you work)
  • taking future SSI or SSDI benefits, or
  • reporting your nonpayment to a credit bureau.

Your Appeal and Waiver Rights

If you receive a notice that you've been overpaid and you don't believe you have been, or you disagree with the amount of overpayment that was stated in the notice, you can file an appeal. In your appeal, you must explain why you believe you haven't been overpaid or why the amount of overpayment is wrong.

If you receive an overpayment notice and believe that, although the overpayment notice was accurate, you should not have to pay the money back to the SSA, you can file a waiver. The waiver must prove that the overpayment was not your fault and that paying back the overpayment would cause financial hardship or be unfair to you.

If you file an appeal or waiver, the SSA will delay taking money out of your monthly Social Security benefits or trying to collect the money for repayment until the SSA decides whether the appeal or waiver will be granted. For more information, including the appeal and waiver forms, see our article on how to respond to an overpayment notice.

If your waiver request or appeal is denied, contact a Social Security attorney.

Updated February 10, 2022

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