Deal­ing With An Over­pay­ment No­tice

The Oakdale Leader - - PERSPECTIVE - By RUS­SELL GLOOR So­cial Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor

Dear Rusty: My hus­band got an over­pay­ment no­tice from So­cial Se­cu­rity telling us that his for­mer wife had col­lected $32,640.34 in ben­e­fits she wasn’t en­ti­tled to and they want us to re­pay the over­pay­ment. We knew that his ex-wife had been mar­ried another three times, but she was sin­gle at 62 when she filed for ex-spouse ben­e­fits from my hus­band. When her cur­rent hus­band went to re­tire, he asked if he could col­lect ben­e­fits from his wife who had just died; So­cial Se­cu­rity told him “no” as she was col­lect­ing ben­e­fits from an ex-hus­band. He asked, “which hus­band?” and that in turn trig­gered the over­pay­ment let­ter to us. If So­cial Se­cu­rity had an “ad­verse let­ter” sys­tem like they do for chil­dren, we could have an­swered the let­ter by stat­ing that she had been mar­ried three times. So­cial Se­cu­rity should have run her SS num­ber and saw how many times she changed her name on the card. End of story. That $32,640.34 is hard to swal­low when you are 80 and 85 and we now must re­pay this amount. Signed: Up­set and An­gry

Dear Up­set: So­cial Se­cu­rity’s rules say that you must be un­mar­ried when you apply for exspouse ben­e­fits, not that you can­not have re­mar­ried and sub­se­quently again di­vorced, been wid­owed or had the later mar­riage an­nulled. If an ex-spouse col­lect­ing ben­e­fits from a for­mer hus­band re­mar­ries, they are ob­li­gated to in­form So­cial Se­cu­rity that they are no longer el­i­gi­ble to col­lect ex-spouse ben­e­fits be­cause they have re­mar­ried. It sounds as if your hus­band’s exwife ne­glected to in­form So­cial Se­cu­rity of her sev­eral re­mar­riages, each of which made her in­el­i­gi­ble to col­lect from your hus­band while she was mar­ried to another. I sug­gest that you ap­peal this So­cial Se­cu­rity rul­ing on the ba­sis that the for­mer wife neg­li­gently con­tin­ued to col­lect ex-spouse ben­e­fits from your hus­band af­ter she had re­mar­ried. This was clearly some­thing that your hus­band had no con­trol over since his So­cial Se­cu­rity ben­e­fit wasn’t af­fected in any way by his ex-wife col­lect­ing ben­e­fits on his record. Although there are time lim­its spec­i­fied to con­test an ad­verse rul­ing, you are hope­fully within the “three years, three months and 15 days af­ter the year the ad­just­ment re­lates.” Your right to re-ap­peal con­tin­ues even if you have been ini­tially and sub­se­quently de­nied, even tak­ing your ap­peal to an Ad­min­is­tra­tive Law Judge if need be. Con­sid­er­ing the amount of money in­volved here, and the clar­ity of the ex-wife’s ne­glect­ing to in­form So­cial Se­cu­rity of her re­mar­riage(s), I en­cour­age you to im­me­di­ately ap­peal So­cial Se­cu­rity’s rul­ing.

So that you know, there is prece­dent within So­cial Se­cu­rity for sit­u­a­tions where ben­e­fits were over­paid to one per­son with­out the knowl­edge of or ben­e­fit to another – for ex­am­ple, your hus­band’s ex-wife col­lect­ing ben­e­fits she wasn’t en­ti­tled to be­cause she was re­mar­ried. This prece­dent in­for­ma­tion can be found at the fol­low­ing So­cial Se­cu­rity link, which deals with a rul­ing that is “against eq­uity and good con­science”: https:// www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/ cfr20/404/404-0509.htm. For your con­ve­nience, here is what the Fed­eral Code says about this (please print this and take it with you when you meet with So­cial Se­cu­rity): “Re­cov­ery of an over­pay­ment is against eq­uity and good con­science … if an in­di­vid­ual … was liv­ing in a sep­a­rate house­hold from the over­paid per­son at the time of the over­pay­ment and did not re­ceive the over­pay­ment.” I be­lieve your hus­band’s sit­u­a­tion re­gard­ing his ex-wife get­ting ben­e­fits she wasn’t en­ti­tled to, and that he had no knowl­edge of, clearly qual­i­fies as “against eq­uity and good con­science.” Please make an ap­point­ment at your lo­cal So­cial Se­cu­rity of­fice as soon as pos­si­ble and file an ap­peal on this rul­ing, and don’t sim­ply ac­cept it if they ini­tially re­ject your ap­peal. Your right to ap­peal con­tin­ues up to and in­clud­ing con­sid­er­a­tion by an in­de­pen­dent Ad­min­is­tra­tive Law Judge and I en­cour­age you to use the ap­peal process to its fullest.

The in­for­ma­tion pre­sented in this ar­ti­cle is in­tended for gen­eral in­for­ma­tion pur­poses only. The opin­ions and in­ter­pre­ta­tions ex­pressed in this ar­ti­cle are the view­points of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Ma­ture Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens Foun­da­tion’s So­cial Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sory staff. To sub­mit a ques­tion, con­tact the Foun­da­tion at info@ amac­foun­da­tion.org.

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