DEAR HARRY: Many years ago, my husband had heart failure. He applied for Social Security disability, which took three years to get....
About five years ago, Social Security sent us a letter saying that the payments to the children were incorrect and demanded a return of $12,000. We asked for a review of this, and the reviewer then sent us another letter now demanding an additional $8,000 with no explanation as to where it came from.
We paid back the money, but I can't see any reason for any overpayment. I cannot reach that reviewer or anyone else who is willing to explain this to me. Don't we have any recourse?
WHAT HARRY SAYS: This is very unlike the way things are normally checked out at Social Security. Try going to your local Social Security office with all your info. That visit will get you all the data on that refund and quite likely a resolution of the problem.No, this is actually normal behavior at Social Security. It's extremely difficult to get an explanation for an alleged overpayment and the amount usually changes if you file an appeal, although my experience is that when you file an appeal the amount goes down more often than it goes up. I've had several cases where an alleged overpayment turned into a large underpayment by the time we got through!
The easiest way for the widow to have resolved these overpayments, at least for the children, would have been to request waiver. The children certainly weren't at fault and it's unlikely they had the means to pay back the money. Waiver would have been close to automatic for the children. Probably, the widow could also get a waiver.
Unfortunately, even most attorneys who do Social Security work aren't familiar with overpayment cases. It's hard to hire an attorney for a Social Security overpayment case anyway because there's no way to charge a contingent fee in these cases and the claimants usually can't afford to pay a fee in any other way. It's a shame since there's so much an attorney can do to help a claimant with an overpayment.