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Home Self-help Library Public Benefits Social Security Overpayments: Waiver is an Option

Social Security Overpayments: Waiver is an OptionPrintE-mailPDF

What is a waiver? The Social Security Administration (SSA) can “waive” your overpayment. The overpayment would not have to be paid back to SSA.

When is waiver granted? SSA can grant a waiver when:

  • The overpayment is not your fault, and

  • Recovery or adjustment:

1. Would defeat the purpose of the program involved; or

2. Would be against equity and good conscience; or

3. For the SSI program only, the amount of the overpayment is less than the cost to recover it. Recovery would "impede effective or efficient administration."

When can a waiver of an overpayment be requested? At anytime. 

What happens when SSA receives a request for waiver? All recovery actions stop. Your request must be either approved or denied. You must be given the opportunity for a personal conference.

What happens if the request is approved? You do not have to repay the overpayment. SSA may refund any money previously withheld. 

What is “without fault” in receiving an overpayment? “Without fault” means that the overpayment did not result from your lack of care. This includes giving full and accurate information; reporting your earnings or other required information; and returning checks you aren’t due. Even if SSA caused the overpayment, you must show that you are without fault.

How does SSA decide a person is without fault? SSA considers your:

  • Understanding the requirement to report changes and to return payments not due;

  • Knowledge of events which should have been reported;

  • Efforts taken and opportunities to meet the reporting requirements; and

  • Ability to meet the reporting requirements. SSA will consider physical, mental, educational, or language limitations.

When does recovery of an overpayment in the RSDI programs defeat the purpose of the program? Recovery defeats the purpose of the program: 1.) if you need almost all of your income to meet your ordinary and necessary living expenses; 2.) repayment of benefits would reduce your total assets below $3000 if you have no dependents or below $5,000, if you have one dependent
(add $600 for each additional dependent); and 3.) you receive any type of cash welfare payments
(including SSI payments).

When does recovery of an SSI overpayment defeat the purpose of the program? Recovery defeats the purpose of the program if repayment would deprive you of income or financial resources needed for ordinary and necessary living expenses. If repayment would cause your income to be below SSI and any income disregards (i.e., $20 for a non-working recipient or $20 plus $65 for a working recipient), that is defeating the purpose of the program.

Note: If you have the overpayment amount available to repay, you will be required to repay it.  This means that if the $500 in your bank account is the $500 payment you should not have received, you will have to repay $500 to SSA.

What is the definition of “against equity and good conscience”? This means that even if you could repay the overpayment you shouldn’t have to if you:

You relied on receiving the payment and changed your position for the worse, such as signing a lease on a more expensive apartment or retiring from a job you can’t get back);

B. Lived in a separate household from the overpaid person at the time of the overpayment and did not receive the overpayment (RSDI overpayments only); or

C. Where both you and your spouse were eligible for SSI, you were legally separated or living apart and did not receive the overpayment (SSI overpayments only)

In these cases, a waiver would be granted. You would not need to repay the overpayment.

For more information see:


This article is meant to give you general information and not specific legal advice.
Prepared by Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. Updated April, 2012. CE-75-F236-CLAS

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