What is an overpayment?

An overpayment occurs when the Social Security Administration determines that they have paid your child too much money for some period of time. Overpayments occur for many reasons. In some cases, your family’s income may vary depending on the month, and a greater income in one month may result in an overpayment a few months later.  An SSI recipient may also be charged with an overpayment if the Social Security Administration believes he or she has misspent SSI funds.

What should I do if I get a notice of overpayment?

First, call or go to your local SSA office. Ask them to explain why they believe you were overpaid. If, after talking to SSA, you believe you should not have to repay the overpayment or you simply cannot repay it, you should challenge the overpayment determination. Here’s how.

1.  Fill out a Request for Reconsideration, SSA Form 561. http://www.ssa.gov/online/ssa-561.pdf.  If you want to file for a reconsideration, you must do so within 60 days of receiving the overpayment notice. If you file this form within 10 days of receiving the notice, SSA will not start recouping money from you until after they have decided on your reconsideration request. 

2.  Fill out a Request for Waiver of Overpayment Recovery, SSA Form 632, at any time. http://www.ssa.gov/online/ssa-632.pdf. If your overpayment is $500 or less, if you ask for a waiver, SSA will usually approve it automatically.  Note that this link is to a “fill-in” PDF file, meaning you can enter your responses directly onto the form and then save or print it.

Which form should I file: a Request for Reconsideration or a Request for Waiver?

You should file a Request for Reconsideration if you believe no overpayment has occurred or that the amount you were overpaid is incorrect.  If you agree that you were overpaid based on what SSA told you, you should file the Request for Waiver, which asks SSA to give up trying to recover the money from you even if it has a right to get it back.

When would SSA grant my Request for Waiver?

SSA may grant your request for waiver if you can show them both of the following:

1.  The overpayment was not your fault. If there is some reason you believe SSA, not you, is at fault for the overpayment, tell SSA on your Request for Waiver (for example, your child’s condition improved but you were not aware you had to report those changes).

2.  Either (a) or (b): (a) You cannot afford to repay SSA. The Request for Waiver asks for detailed information about your financial situation.  Answer honestly and completely to show SSA that paying them back would cause you financial hardship. (b) It would be unfair for SSA to make you pay the money back.  It might be unfair to make you pay if you made a change relying on the amount of SSI benefits (for example, if you moved to an apartment with a higher rent specifically because of the amount of SSI you had been receiving for your child).  It might also be unfair if someone from SSA gave you wrong information about your child’s benefits and you relied on that information.