There are many ways in which the Social Security Administration may make an error and pay more in disability benefits to a person than they are allowed by law. This can occur with regard to both back pay awards or monthly benefits. A disability attorney can help these mistakes from occurring.
How the SSA Can Get It Wrong When You Don’t File Through a Disability Attorney
For those receiving SSD (also known as DIB or Disability Insurance Benefits), the error may be a simple mistake in calculation of the benefits payable under a person’s earnings record. The benefit amount can vary depending on what a person earned during their working life. If an earnings record is incomplete when the benefit amount is calculated, this may result in an overpayment of benefits. An experienced disability attorney can help you file these forms mistake free.
Even if the agency made the mistake resulting in the overpayment, you will ordinarily be expected to repay any amount you were overpaid.
For those receiving SSI (or Supplemental Security Income), the most common overpayment errors have to do Social Security Administration’s information about the disabled person’s income and assets. SSI is a means-tested program, which means it is intended only to benefit the poor. A person who has a household income exceeding certain guidelines or assets exceeding certain guidelines might not be entitled to receive SSI benefits at all, or the amount of the benefit may be reduced in some fashion. A disability attorney can tell you whether you’re likely to qualify for these benefits before you even apply.
Importance of Providing Accurate Information
It is imperative that you always provide accurate information regarding your household income and personal assets to your disability attorney. It is also important, if you receive SSI benefits, to keep the agency informed of any change in your income or assets. This way, they can make appropriate adjustments to your benefits.
If you receive a notice from the SSA alleging that you have received an overpayment and the agency demands that you repay this amount, a disability attorney will help you dispute this overpayment finding through the normal Social Security disability appeals process. You also have the right to request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. You would appeal such a finding only if you believed the agency was incorrect about the overpayment itself.
If you believe the agency is correct that an overpayment occurred, you still have the option to seek a waiver to forgive you of the obligation to repay the overpaid amount. Important factors considered in granting a waiver include whether you knew or should have known an overpayment was occurring at the time you received the benefits, whether or not the overpayment occurred as a result of incorrect information provided by you, and whether or not you can afford to repay the overpayment amount owed. This last question involves a review of your overall financial situation. There is a waiver form available from the agency which covers all of these issues.
If Social Security does not forgive an overpayment, it is sometimes possible to discharge an overpayment debt by filing bankruptcy. This is not true if the overpayment is the result of fraud on your part. Discharge of an overpayment by filing bankruptcy should not interfere with your receipt of ongoing benefits. Of course, there are many pros and cons to filing bankruptcy and what makes sense for any person always depends on their overall circumstances.