|The Social Security Administration has grown notorious for denying disability claims the first time they are applied for. Only a small percentage of applicants succeed in obtaining disability on the first try, and usually then only with the help of a skilled attorney.
Recently, however, it has also become common place for the SSA to rule against claimants on “overpayments” of Social Security disability income, and then defend the reversal, no matter what the reason or how long it went on. Naturally, most people fight back very hard when they are told they will have to repay money they knew was needed for every dollar for the claimant’s living expenses and which is usually already spent .
It seems that in a time of economic turmoil, when tax revenues are declining, the pressure on the government, particularly to maintain social security payments, causes the SSA to both turn down more new claims and to seek repayment of money it has already paid out.
So what happens in the process and what can you do if you find yourself asked to repay money you don’t have to Social Security?
Months, perhaps even years, after disability payments were distributed to you, you could receive notice of an overpayment from the SSA. This typically happens to a person on disability who married or remarried after being approved for disability, and the other person has more than a minimal income.
This is because your Social Security Disability Income is based on household income, or a combination of what you receive and what your payee representative earns.
It does not mean that you are ineligible for SSDI just because you get married while you are receiving payment. What it does mean is that your SSDI payments are subject to partial reduction because of the income your spouse receives.
You may not even be aware that is the case when you receive an overpayment. In fact, many people are not. So the overpayments accumulate for months before the SSA obtains a record of the change in your marital status, usually after the next tax return is filed, but they may not do anything even then. Another year could pass before anything happens.
However, if it is more than two years after the overpayment has passed before you are notified, the SSA is entitled to reimbursement only for amounts that you intentionally or fraudulently obtained. This is a hard standard for it to prove, given that you disclosed the very thing that made you lose a portion of your benefits, namely that you got married.
If you have a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, however, there is a very good chance you will lose, especially if you are not represented by an attorney. Once a decision is made, if you cannot repay, or do not believe the decision is fair, you have a short window to appeal. The appeal process is very tedious. But if you retain a knowledgeable attorney, there is a good chance your case will be reversed, either because the time for repayment has passed or the money they are demanding is too high.
This can happen due to accounting errors, which are more common than you might think, or simply because you are unable to repay the amount that is demanded. If your case is sent back to the ALJ – you will receive a fresh review. The ALJ is then forced to reconsider the entire situation and is much more likely to rule in your favor when all is said and done.
The Thompson Law Office is experienced in handling disability claims and claims for repayment successfully. To seek assistance and schedule a free consultation, call our office at (317) 564-4976 or toll free (877) 365-1776 today!