Disabled Vet has to pay a huge amount for SSA’s own errors and their mismanaged system

I’m sure you are being bombarded with emails about your story last night on 60Minutes. The story mentioned that SSA waived the over payments for the people that were on the story. That’s great for those people, but there are many more of us that are paying the price for SSA’s staff shortages and lack of ownership in their own errors.

Our story? We owe SSA about $84,000, yep, $84,000. Many years ago, during the recession my husband lost his job and was out of work for a couple years. A friend of ours said that he would be eligible to receive Social Security Disability since he has multiple sclerosis and that we should look into it. We never really thought about applying because we were thankful that he had always been able to work full time with his MS and it’s limitations.

But considering the situation, he applied and received disability payments from SSA. It was truly a lifeline for our family at that time. We had 2 children in college and my income had also been greatly reduced because of the housing market crash.

He is a disabled veteran and after much job hunting was able to get in a “training type program” called Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) offered through Hines Hospital in Maywood, IL. I don’t have all the fact and dates in front of me, but we have documentation filed away. We had faithfully filed our income tax every year including all the social security income and filled out ALL the letters/questionnaires etc. that SSA had sent us during that time. We were doing our part. We never knew that we weren’t entitled to receive that money after a certain amount of time. There was no intent to do anything “fraudulent” or us attempting to “beat the system”.

A few years later, we also received “that letter” that you mentioned that those other couples received out of the blue from SSA, stating that we owed about $89,000 from being paid when we weren’t entitled. Years had passed before we were contacted and months/years passed in between correspondence with SSA which just dragged the process and stress out even longer. Stress is a huge factor in multiple sclerosis and this definitely caused a decline in my husband’s health and disability. We never had any success in being able to talk to anyone that could really help us at SSA.

He appealed and lost. He had hearings and lost. (Not surprised.) But somehow, we were at least offered a monthly payment plan. We will never live long enough to pay it off and that huge debt constantly hangs over our heads. If the mistake would have been caught sooner, in a more timely professional manner before it reached that huge amount, we could have avoided this whole financial tragedy.

There is no one for us to contact to ask any of the questions that hang over our heads. We couldn’t trust the answers even if we could get to talk to someone, because one person says one thing and another person says another.
• If my husband dies, do I become responsible for the debt?
• He wants to apply for his social security benefits but once he does and payments begin will they dock it? Will they keep 100% of his payments for the first 3 or 4 years until the over payment is paid back?
• Worse yet, will they pay him and then sometime later, come after us for that money in addition because he wasn’t supposed to be paid anything?
• If we both die, what happens to the debt?

He is 67 (still working full time) and I will be 65 soon. I plan on continuing working full time at my job because we don’t know what will happen once my husband starts collecting social security. Even if they told us, we wouldn’t really trust them that they wouldn’t “change” their decision.

This kind of error would never be allowed in the private business world and would probably actually be punished in some way.

We just wanted to share our story. Not sure if you might be able help us, but this system DEFINATELY needs some rules put in place and we will contact our congress people as you suggested. Innocent people are suffering.

Thank you for looking into this horrible system and these huge nightmares for all of us affected.

Terry Says

OMG — this is horrible. And worst, I can’t give you answers, because SS doesn’t follow its own rules — as you can already see. But we will add you to our list and hope to get them to deal with all these posts –and more!

Thank you for posting.  Sharing your story helps others understand they are not alone.  And it helps us pressure the  Congress to fix these situations immediately.  I don’t think anyone has ever gathered all these stories together in one place so people in power can see the impact of this cruel and inept Social Security bureaucracy.

Here’s what we are aiming for — as fast as possible!

  1. Complete Moratorium on Clawbacks
  2. Reinstatement of all suspended benefits
  3. An independent hearing on EACH case before any demands or cuts
  4. An 18-month Statute of Limitations on Clawbacks

Sharing YOUR story helps us help others!  Thank you!