Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE) is a non-profit regional law firm that provides high quality legal assistance in civil matters to help eligible low-income individuals and groups in western Ohio achieve self reliance, and equal justice and economic opportunity.
People with disabilities often want to work to contribute their skills to their community and experience the independence many of us take for granted. But even part-time paid work can result in losing Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments. And recipients can be required to pay back amounts that are deemed “overpayments.” Overpayments happen when the Social Security Administration finds that a recipient has received payments when they should not have. If a person is deemed ineligible for a month – even if they were only over-income by a few dollars – they must pay back the amount received for the entire month they are deemed ineligible. If a person doesn’t understand their obligations and rights, they can end up owing thousands of dollars and not receive any SSI or SSDI while they are in repayment. The results can be devastating and have a domino effect of financial instability in the lives of people who were just trying to get back into the workforce on a part-time basis.
Morgan,* a resident of Allen County challenged by physical and mental disabilities, experienced this firsthand. She was excited to begin a new job after receiving SSI and SSDI for a few years, not realizing how her new part-time employment could affect her benefits. As a result, she began incurring “overpayments.” When she contacted ABLE, she had just been notified of her fifth overpayment. She became frustrated and quit her job because she was afraid of incurring another overpayment. Thankfully, Morgan reached out for help.
An ABLE attorney met with Morgan and explained the work incentive rules and assisted the client with filing for a waiver of her approximately $8,000 in overpayments. Shortly after we accepted the case and filed the overpayment waiver, the Social Security office mistakenly withheld Morgan’s entire check in violation of Social Security regulations and the waiver process rules. Morgan was in danger of eviction because she did not have the money to pay her rent. Her lawyer contacted the Social Security office to resolve the situation and assisted Morgan with getting an emergency check issued.
Her attorney was also able to negotiate a repayment plan for all five overpayments, with a total of only $10 being withheld from her check monthly. Shortly after the overpayment situation was resolved, Morgan felt comfortable returning to work. She is now working part-time and continues to receive her SSI and SSDI benefits. Her financial situation is much more stable, she did not become homeless, and she was relieved and happy about the outcome of the case.
*Name changed for privacy