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You Might Be Able to Keep Your Social Security Overpayment. Here's How.

Did you accidentally receive extra Social Security money? You might not have to send it back, thanks to new SSA rules.

Katie Teague Writer II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
Expertise Personal Finance: Social Security and taxes
Katie Teague
3 min read
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You may or may not be able to keep those extra Social Security dollars.

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If you received more money than usual from the Social Security Administration, there's a chance that you won't have to pay it back. There are new rules concerning accidental overpayments, which SSA Commissioner Martin O'Malley laid out in March. The four-step plan is meant to help beneficiaries who receive overpayments without knowing that their benefits didn't actually increase.

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Typically when a Social Security beneficiary receives more money than they're supposed to get, they're required to pay it all back, either through reduced monthly payments or as a lump sum, even when it's a mistake made by the SSA. These repayments can negatively impact people who rely on their monthly Social Security payments to afford housing and other bills.

We'll explain what's happening with Social Security overpayments and how it could affect you. For more, here's the Social Security payment schedule, and here's info on the maximum amount of Social Security you can get each month

How does a Social Security overpayment happen?

There are several reasons why overpayments may occur, according to the Social Security Administration -- for instance, you start a new job and don't report your work in a timely manner, or you continue to receive payments during an appeal.

The SSA says it handles overpayments on a case-by-case basis, so if you receive a notice, it's best to contact the agency, especially if you think it's a mistake. In the case of an error, you can submit an appeal.

How will the new rules change Social Security repayments?

On March 20, 2024, Commissioner O'Malley introduced a four-step plan to change how claimants who receive an overpayment can repay it. 

First, as of March 25, the Social Security Administration will no longer take back 100% of Social Security benefits when a claimant doesn't respond to a demand for repayment notice. The default withholding amount will now be 10%.

Second, claimants will no longer have to show proof of whether they were at fault for causing overpayments. Instead, that responsibility will lie within the agency if it believes the beneficiary was at fault for receiving the overpayment.

Third, the period for repayment will be extended from 36 months to 60 months. This longer payback period will give beneficiaries more time to pay so that less money will be taken from their monthly checks.

Last, the agency will make it easier for beneficiaries to request a waiver if they are not at fault or can't afford to repay the money back.

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You can request a waiver for Social Security overpayments.

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How to request a waiver for Social Security overpayments or file an appeal

If you believe you're not at fault for any Social Security overpayments you've received, you can either request a waiver or file an appeal. Here's how to do it.

Request a waiver:

If you agree that you have been overpaid, but you don't think you should have to pay it back because the overpayment wasn't your fault or you can't afford to repay it, you can request a waiver. There isn't a time limit to request a waiver as long as you can prove it wasn't your fault or that paying the money back would cause a hardship.

To request a waiver, you'll need to submit form SSA-632. Once you've completed it, you can either mail it or drop it off at your nearest Social Security office.

Don't use this form if you think you are not at fault and your overpayment is $1,000 or less. Instead, request a waiver by calling 1-800-772-1213 or your local Social Security office. Your request could possibly be processed over the phone.

File an appeal: 

If you don't believe you've been overpaid or if the amount listed on your notice is correct, you can file an appeal. Here's how. 

Before you file, make sure you've got your notice from the SSA on hand, as well as any supporting documents. Once you're ready, go to secure.ssa.gov/iApplNMD/start and click Start an Appeal, then follow the onscreen instructions. Note that you have 60 days from the date you received the original overpayment notice (five days after the listed date on the notice) to file your appeal.

For more Social Security information, here's how to apply for benefits. Also, here's how to create a My Social Security account.