Head of Social Security Administration discusses local woman's overpayment case

WASHINGTON — Kate from Munhall first reached out to 11 Investigates in the fall of 2023 when she was at a loss over what to do. She received a Social Security overpayment letter for nearly $15,000, addressed to her adult daughter with severe disabilities, who currently receives around-the-clock care in a group home.

Kate says the group home went under and didn’t cash a check. That bumped her daughter’s account above the $2,000 asset limit, triggering an overpayment. It wasn’t caught until two years later, in 2020, when the overpayment amount had already ballooned to thousands of dollars.

“I’ll be paying this debt off until I die,” Kate tells 11 Investigates. “Mentally, emotionally, physically it just wears you down.”

The Iraq war veteran says the past six years have been a living nightmare. She has helped oversee her daughter’s account since 2006, when her daughter first became a recipient. Kate says she never had an issue with the agency until 2020. Now, because of the overpayment, a portion of her daughter’s check is being withheld. It’s money that Kate says goes toward her care at the group home.

“I spent 28 years working in the government,” Kate added. “I understand rules. I understand regulations. But I also understand someone, somewhere, at some level, has the authority to override some things.”

11 Investigates took her case directly to the new head of the Social Security Administration, Martin O’Malley.

“Regardless of whether or not the overpayment was caused in that case by a home that didn’t cash the check, and led to the assets going up in SSI, regardless of the cause of overpayment, when we discover that there is one, Congress says thou shalt take every action necessary to recover that overpayment,” O’Malley tells 11 Investigates. “But, they give us the ability to grant waivers when it would be contrary to equity and good conscious.”

Kate filed a request for reconsideration, but it was denied, citing something completely different than that uncashed check. Now, she says she’ll file a waiver.

“Every day when I get something from them, I want to give up,” Kate said. “I think this is just so hard. I just don’t have any more in me to do this. I’m not the only one. It’s maddening and maybe it’s designed that way. They don’t want to make it too easy.”

The new head of the agency says she should keep filing waivers - the same goes for other folks who do not believe an overpayment was their fault.

“It does bring me some comfort to know that you, Channel 11, is interested in highlighting these issues,” Kate said. “It’s not just me, it’s others. You are the only ones who took the flag and ran with it. I’m grateful for that.”

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