Social Security overpaid billions; now it’s coming to collect

Sep 18, 2023, 5:30 PM

Social Security...

FILE - A Social Security card is displayed on Oct. 12, 2021, in Tigard, Ore. Most U.S. adults are opposed to proposals that would cut into Medicare or Social Security benefits, and a majority support raising taxes on the nation's highest earners to keep Medicare running as is. The new findings, revealed in a March poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, come as both safety net programs are poised to run out of enough cash to pay out full benefits within the next decade. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

(AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — $21,600,000,000.  That’s $21.6 billion. That’s how much money the Social Security Administration overpaid to beneficiaries. And now it demands that money back — in 30 days.

Most of the repayments are requested from recipients of SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, which provides monthly payments to people with disabilities and older adults who have little or no income or resources.

Social Security wants $60,000 from kitchen worker

A kitchen worker at an Ohio nursing home has cerebral palsy, an intellectual disability and a cardiac condition. She earns less than $900 a month and receives $1,065 in monthly Social Security disability benefits.

In 30 days, the SSA wants the $60,000 it overpaid to Justina Worrell, 47, according to WUSF Public Media.

If you receive a letter from the SSA demanding the return of money, what should you do?

KSL legal analyst Greg Skordas joins Dave & Dujanovic to talk about the best course of action for beneficiaries now facing a claw back from the SSA.

Skordas said it’s “highly unlikely” the federal government expects any of the recipients to pay back the money within 30 days. He added that the government is going to give the people who receive an overpayment time to repay, even if it means reducing the size of all future Social Security benefits.

Also, the reduction in benefits is going to really hurt some of these people who are disabled and can’t work, Skordas said.

No statue of limitations apply here

Dave Noriega asked if there was a statute of limitations on recollecting money owed to the government.

Skordas said the government can go back and collect unpaid taxes or overpayments regardless of time. You can’t discharge Social Security money owed in bankruptcy, but he doubted whether any of these beneficiaries would have their wages garnished.

Debbie Dujanovic asked how Justina Worrell, who earns $900 a month, is ever going to be able to repay $60,000.

Skordas said the government will have to be realistic and compassionate about the situation and lower expectations to say, maybe, recollect 10 cents on the dollar.

No one is going to be arrested or jailed, he said. 

The US Supreme Court abolished debtors’ prisons in 1883.

The SSA is never going to recoup its losses, he said. It was the government’s fault to begin with, he added, not the fault of the beneficiaries.

Florida couple sell home to satisfy debt

A former postal worker wishing to remain anonymous was forced to retire due to a back injury. She was told she had been overpaid workers’ compensation benefits since 2000 and owed the government $126,612.

“I almost threw up when I opened that letter,” she said.

The government reduced her monthly benefit checks, then stopped them. She and her husband sold their car, their house and moved from Florida to Georgia, where the cost of living was lower, according to WUSF Public Media.

No lawyer would take her case because she had no money.

After a six-year battle against the SSA, an administrative judge ruled in her favor. The judge wiped away the debt, writing “requiring repayment would be against equity and good conscience.”


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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Social Security overpaid billions; now it’s coming to collect