Why Wasn't My Son's Back Pay Applied To My Overpayment?

Jan 9 2019 - 1:46pm

I received disability benefits for a closed period (1998-2002). I started receiving benefits in 2003 after I had started a part time job. I was notified in 2004 that I was overpaid $43,388. In 2008 I received a check for beneficiary benefits for my son in the amount of $16.706. I did not cash that check and didn't understand why they would send me a check if I was overpaid. I had the attorney that filed for benefits working on resolving this over the years. The attorney file a request for reconsideration, and a waiver. None of which I received copies of or results from SSA. I also send the attorney's office the check for $16,706 to return to SSA. I though it was best for an attorney to handle this matter. Apparently that was not true. The attorney stopped representing me this year when they couldn't produce a copy of the check not proof that it was returned to SSA. Since August I have been trying to resolve this with the local SSA office. I haven't received much help from them and mostly just get attitude and rudeness from them. I tried to file a waiver and was told all I could do was file to have the payment reduced. I asked about the waiver against equity and good conscience and they didn't know anything about it. I asked about the check that was returned and was told the payment center is looking into it and that those monies would go to my son. Do they know that check was never cashed and are they not notifying anyone of it because it was beneficiary benefits and they don't have contact information for my son. Should I bring my son to the SSA office to request a replacement for that check? I'm at my wits end trying to get this resolved. They are taking my entire retirement benefits to repay this and the amount is wrong. Why was the $16,706 never applied to the overpayment?

Hi Barbara,

I can only speculate, but my best guess is that the payment made to your son covered a period of time for which you were actually entitled to benefits rather than for the period of time for which you were overpaid. If you received payments for a period of time that it turned out you weren't eligible for benefits, then your son likely wouldn't have been eligible for child benefits for that period either.

Since your son, not you, is the person presumably entitled to the child's benefits in question, Social Security couldn't automatically withhold his benefits to recover part of your overpayment. So, if your son's back pay was returned to Social Security and if he was entitled to benefits for the period covered by the back pay, then it's possible that he could still claim those funds. But, it's also possible that Social Security could consider your son to be contingently liable for your overpayment, in which case they could propose recovering part of your overpayment by withholding any benefits that he may still be due from your record.

With regard to possible waiver (forgiveness) of your overpayment, 'against equity and good conscience' refers to a circumstance where recovery of an overpayment would be unfair for a legally defined reason. Examples would include cases where the overpaid person didn't receive benefit of the overpaid funds, or relinquished a valuable right or changed their position for the worse in reliance of the incorrectly paid benefits. For more information on that topic, refer to this reference from Social Security's operations manual: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0202250150.

The bottom line is that I simply don't have enough details about your case to be able to give you any definite advice. It's likely that the only way to resolve this issue would be by contacting Social Security, and assuming that your son is now an adult he would need to be present during any contacts related to his back pay.

Best, Jerry