Causes of Social Security Overpayments

Several situations can lead to an overpayment of benefits:

Delayed or unreported wages

If an individual receiving benefits fails to report their earnings promptly or entirely to the Social Security Administration (SSA), it can create a discrepancy.

❯ Processing delays by SSA

Delays in processing wage reports by the SSA can cause temporary overpayments until the information is reconciled.

❯ Unprocessed work incentive information

If the SSA experiences delays in processing work incentive information, it may lead to an overpayment of benefits once the individual’s actual earnings are accounted for.

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What to Do If Social Security Says There Is an Overpayment

Receiving an overpayment notice requires action. Ignoring it will result in the Social Security Administration (SSA) automatically deducting the overpayment from your future benefits. Here are your options: challenge the decision (appeal), request a waiver of repayment, or set up a payment plan.

You can file an appeal if you think that:

  • There is no overpayment or
  • The overpayment amount needs to be corrected.

SSA calls this a Request for Reconsideration. The form you need is Form SSA-561-U2, Request for Reconsideration (PDF). On the form, write why you think they were not overpaid or why you think the overpayment amount is wrong. You can submit evidence of work incentives with your Request for Reconsideration.

The deadline for filing an appeal is 60 days from the date on the overpayment notice. If you miss the deadline, you will not be able to appeal the overpayment in the future.

You can request a waiver if you can show that:

  • The overpayment was not their fault, and
  • They cannot afford to pay it back.

SSA calls this a Request for Waiver. The form you need is Form SSA-632-BK, Request for Waiver of Overpayment Recovery (PDF). When deciding fault, SSA must consider the recipient’s disability, age, education level, and ability to understand and follow SSA rules. Give SSA proof of any barriers when filing the waiver request.

You can request a waiver at any time, even if SSA has started collecting money.

Ask your client how much they can afford to repay. Ask your local SSA office for a payment plan for that amount. SSA can agree to plans to pay as little as $10 per month. The form you need is Form SSA-634, Request for Change in Overpayment Recovery Rate (PDF).

If things change and they can no longer afford the agreed-upon payment plan, contact SSA right away to change the plan.

Helpful Tips for Handling an Overpayment Notice

Here’s what to do if you disagree with a decision from the Social Security Administration (SSA):

Submit your appeal, waiver request, or payment plan application as soon as possible. This prevents the SSA from withholding your entire check. If your request is denied later, you may still be responsible for repayment, but you’ll have more time to manage it.

There are several ways to file your appeal with your local SSA office:

  • In Person: Visit your local office and request a receipt for your submission.
  • By Fax: Keep a confirmation page as proof of sending.
  • Online: File electronically and print the submission confirmation page.

Always keep copies of the documents you submit and proof of filing for your records. This will be crucial if needed later.

What to Expect after Your Appeal or Request

Appealing or Requesting a Waiver

❯ Personal Conference: Request a face-to-face meeting (or phone call) with the SSA to review your file and discuss the overpayment. This can be a valuable opportunity to present your case.

❯ Reduced Overpayment: Appeals can potentially eliminate the entire overpayment amount.

❯ Waived Repayment: Waivers, if approved, can fully or partially excuse your repayment responsibility.

Payment Plans

❯ Flexible Options: Even if you choose not to appeal or request a waiver, you can still apply for a payment plan. The SSA can adjust the repayment amount to as low as $10 per month.


❯ Appeal Rights: The SSA will inform you of your appeal rights if they deny any initial request. Be sure to review deadlines carefully.

❯ Seek Legal Help: Consider contacting your local legal aid program, pro bono projects, or law school clinics for assistance with overpayment appeals.


❯ There’s flexibility in the process. If one avenue is denied, you can still explore the others.

This information is used with permission from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability.

Cornell University ILR School