Social Security Asked You For Money Back — Now What?

The Social Security Administration sent you an overpayment notice. Here’s what you need to do next.

An older woman looks at some paperwork while standing in her home.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a $23 billion overpayment problem that it's trying to resolve by sending notices to those it overpaid — and asking for it back.

Here’s what you need to know about the overpayments and the notices, as well as what to do if you receive one.

What is an overpayment?

An overpayment occurs when a beneficiary receives more money in a month than they should have.

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As outlined by the SSA, several factors can lead to an overpayment, including:

  • Your income is more than you estimated.
  • Your living situation changed.
  • Your marital status changed.
  • You have more resources than the allowable limit.
  • You are no longer disabled but continue to receive benefits.
  • You did not report a change in a timely manner to the SSA as required.
  • You reported incorrect or incomplete information that caused the SSA to incorrectly calculate your benefit.

Overpayments can also occur due to SSA itself making mistakes, as noted in a September 15 KFF Health News investigative report.

Overpayment notice

The SSA will ask for a full refund for overpayments and give you 30 days from the date of the overpayment notice, plus five additional days for mail delivery, before it starts the collection process.

The overpayment notice will also provide other information, including instructions on how to ask for a review and waiver of the overpayment, and how to appeal a decision.

How to repay overpaid benefits

The SSA provides automated phone assistance at 1-855-807-8807 or TTY +1 800-325-0778 that includes prompts to help you set up payments.

Payments can also be made by calling SSA at 1-800-772-1213 and telling a representative that you want to repay overpaid benefits.

If your overpayment notice includes instructions for online payments and a remittance ID, you can submit your repayment at

To request to make smaller monthly payments, submit a Request for Change in Overpayment Recovery Rate Form, which can be faxed or mailed to your local SSA office.

Other options

If you cannot afford to pay the overpayment back, feel the error was not your fault or that the request is unfair, you can ask the SSA to waive the repayment.

If you disagree with the details of the overpayment notice and believe the overpayment amount is incorrect, you can request a reconsideration, also known as an appeal.

If your request is denied but you still think the overpayment is incorrect or unfair, you can appeal the decision by requesting a hearing.

Can you hire a lawyer or negotiate with SSA?

The SSA says it is your right to legal or non-legal representation.

"We will work with your representative, just as we would with you," the agency said. "For your protection, in most situations, your representative can’t charge or collect a fee from you without first getting written approval from us. However, your representative may accept money from you in advance if the money is held in a trust or escrow account."

Sometimes you can negotiate your repayment with the SSA, according to an article by Aaron Hotfelder, an attorney and legal editor at legal products firm Nolo. In general, he said, “it never hurts to call Social Security and make a reasonable offer for less than you owe.”

Many disability lawyers will not take overpayment cases, but you can try to find one by searching your local area, according to the article.

Working on improvements

In a congressional hearing last month, the SSA said that it is working to resolve the overpayments issue but that its payment accuracy rates remain high.

“Let’s all agree that we shouldn’t be going after beneficiaries who receive payments improperly,” Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-GA), chair of the House Social Security Subcommittee, said in opening remarks at the hearing. “Let’s focus first on stopping the improper payments. Whether we’re talking about an overpayment, or whether we’re talking about an underpayment, we have to get this right.”

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Joey Solitro

Joey Solitro is a freelance financial journalist at Kiplinger with more than a decade of experience. A longtime equity analyst, Joey has covered a range of industries for media outlets including The Motley Fool, Seeking Alpha, Market Realist, and TipRanks. Joey holds a bachelor's degree in business administration.