SSA did not respect any of its own rules 😡

I watched the program on overpayment of social security benefits. I want to share my own experience in regard to this issue.

SSA sent me this info pamphlet: Form SSA-3105 Reconsideration:

— If you request Reconsideration within 30 days from the date of this notice, we will not start to withhold any part of your benefits.

— If you request Reconsideration within 60 days from the date of this notice, we will suspend any withholding while the overpayment decision is being reviewed. ….. you will not have to make any refund while the overpayment decision is being reviewed.

SSA did not respect any of its own rules 😡

Here is in short what happened in my case:

1. In May 2017, after reaching the age of 62.5, I began applying for US Social Security Early Retirement. The form contained a question about the Polish retirement pension, if I was already receiving it and when I was going to apply for it. Then I provided the relevant documents from ZUS {Polish SSA) that I did not receive any benefits at that time. I then stated that I would apply for a Polish retirement pension when I reach the age of 65. All these formalities were carried out by special unit of the SSA:
Biuro Świadczeń Federalnych/ANW
Ambasada USA
Ul. Piękna 12, 00-539 Warszawa

Soon after the case was dealt with, I started receiving monthly benefits. same as would any other recipient of SS Benefits did having the same credits (contributions) as I had.

2. In 2019 when I reached 65, the retirement age in Poland, I applied for a Polish retirement pension at a special branch of ZUS for international affairs in Warsaw, which is in contact with the SSA and keeps the American side informed about my Polish benefits. I started to receive my modest Polish pension in addition to the US Benefits from that point on.

3. It wasn’t until the beginning of February 2022 (over two years) that I noticed something was wrong. The monthly direct deposits to my bank account were suddenly reduced by ⅓, both for my benefit and that of my son, Kuba. I was completely surprised and bewildered by this incident. I had no idea what was going on here? I did not receive any communication from SSA, although I was in constant email connection with the field office in Poland.

4. When I found out that this is all about WEP reductions I immediately appealed the SSA decision (all in the law allowed time). The benefit reduction should stop at that time (according to a Form SSA-3105 Reconsideration), until this case is resolved, but it didn’t. I was informed that I was overpaid and have significant debt that I have to pay off. At one point I was offered a repayment plan for my debt but nothing happened with that, instead the payments of our benefits were suspended entirely for 3 months. It was an irresponsible, illegal action by the SSA. I tried to avoid it and requested suspension of the execution of debt until the appeal process was concluded, but with no avail. They left me and my son with no resources to make a living.

5. The SSA knew well in advance that I was applying for a Polish retirement pension, and when. I made no secret of it. So there was a lot of time to inform me about the changes that awaited me regarding the WEP law. Unfortunately, I did not receive any WEP related information from the SSA. I was completely surprised by the impact of WEP law on our benefits after over 2 years of receiving Polish pension – that led to a significant overpayment. Only the harsh reality of reduced benefits made me realize how discriminatory and unfair WEP law is.

6. After two fruitless appeals I requested the Administrative Judge Hearing. It took almost a year for that, but as I expected, the Judge, as a SSA employee, wouldn’t make any ruling against his employer. The hearing itself was a joke and was performed by the Judge with the timer in hand. After 30 minutes to the second, he cut me short and discontinued our session. I didn’t even have a chance to present all my issues, and he ruled only on one out of five brought to his attention. Now, I will have to appeal to the Council, and that would be the last option before I could start my legal fight in the court.

I expected that the Administrative Judge would properly interpret the law and reverse the SSA decision of collecting my debt as a lump sum, by suspending my benefits for three months. That would give me a chance to schedule some repayment process over time. It didn’t happen. I had to go to deep debt in order to survive those three months with no income 🙁

Andrew Kobeszko