US families left homeless and unable to pay huge bills after Social Security benefits blunder — here’s what to do if you receive a payment notice

‘It’s scary’: US families left homeless and unable to pay huge bills after Social Security benefits blunder — here’s what to do if you receive a payment notice

Denise Woods drives to and from malls, truck stops and parking lots in Georgia looking for a safe place to sleep every night — and everything she owns is crammed into the back seat of her car.

“It’s scary. You don’t know what every day is going to bring,” she said. “This shouldn’t be anyone’s life.”

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Woods said Business News on WSB-TV Channel 2 She was forced to live out of her car after receiving a notice that she had been overpaid Social Security benefits For a staggering $57,968.

When Woods — who was claiming disability benefits for lupus and congestive heart failure — couldn’t pay that huge sum, the Social Security Administration (SSA) said it would withhold her entire $2,048 monthly check until February 2026, when the debt would expire. It will be repaid.

Sadly, Woods isn’t the only one who was forced out of her home due to a benefits blunder. According to a wide-ranging investigation by WSB-TV Channel 2 Action News, others suffered a similar fate and at least 400 families received demand letters from the Social Security Administration demanding repayment of thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.

SSA Overpayment Problem

In fiscal year 2023 (October 1, 2022 to September 30, 2023), the Social Security Administration recovered more than $4.9 billion in overpayments, but ended the year with $23 billion in overpayments have yet to be collected.

according to KFF Health NewsThe agency has acknowledged in the past that many overpayments were the result of mistakes made by the government and not the people — often elderly, poor or disabled — receiving the extra money.

Those who receive Social Security benefits typically spend their checks on critical living expenses and health care. They’re not hiding it to cover unexpected four- or five-figure SSA reimbursement bills.

For some, the burden of repayment is life-altering. As part of the investigation into this matter, WSB-TV Channel 2 Action News spoke with Nicole Eberhart at an extended-stay hotel, where a legally blind mother is now living after losing her $1,700 monthly disability check from the Social Security Administration (SSA) over payments Excess.

“I was using that money to pay for the apartment we were living in,” she told consumer investigator Justin Gray, who had been looking into the overpayment case for three years.

As a result of the months-long investigation in partnership with KFF Health News, Acting SSA Commissioner Dr. Kilolo Kijakazi He said In October 2023, it plans to “convene a team to review overpayment policies and procedures to improve how we serve our customers.”

In the meantime, here’s what you can do if you get a scary payment notice in the mail.

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Interest payment

As of December 2023, there were 67 million Americans receiving Social Security benefits. Of that total, more than 8.5 million Americans were claiming disability insurance from the Social Security Administration, receiving an average monthly benefit of $1,395, according to the federal administration. Data.

With numbers like these, it’s natural that errors can fall through the cracks — but the SSA has formal procedures for resolving payment issues.

“Benefits are overpaid when we cannot accurately calculate your benefit amount because our information is wrong or incomplete,” SSA explains online. “This can happen if you do not share with us updates about what has changed in your life, such as your ability to work, your living situation, marital status or income.”

If you receive a letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) saying you got more money than you should have, you have at least 30 days (plus five mailing days from the notice date) to pay the full amount back. If you fail to do so within this time frame, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will begin collecting the overpayment—possibly by reducing or stopping monthly Social Security benefits, or garnishing wages and federal tax refunds—unless you timely apply for a waiver. Or reconsider.

How to reduce or resume your repayments

A shocking Social Security payment notice doesn’t have to end in your financial ruin. There are ways to seek help from the SSA.

If you receive a valid overpayment notice but are unable to pay your SSA within 30 days, you can request that your debt be paid in smaller, more manageable monthly payments.

If you do not agree that you have been overpaid or that the overpayment amount is incorrect, you may Submit an appeal online Or by mail. Make sure you have all of your medical information and supporting documents (including forms, legal documents, and written statements) ready before requesting loan repayment.

You can also ask the Social Security Administration (SSA) to do this Waive your payment If you can’t afford it and feel it wasn’t your fault, or if you think the overpayment is unfair for some other reason. Again, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may ask to see proof of your income and expenses before it will agree to forgive your debts.

Receiving any type of payment request can be scary — especially if you’re not expecting it — but the worst thing you can do is run away from it. It’s always a good idea to contact your collector to see if you can come up with a payment plan that works for you and your family Explore other ways to improve your situation.

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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. They are provided without warranty of any kind.

(tags for translation)Social Security

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