PITTSBURGH — 11 Investigates is getting more action on our reporting about the government trying to claw back millions of dollars in Social Security Overpayments. In some cases, the overpayments triggered folks losing their social security checks altogether or getting reduced payments while the agency claws back the money.
Six senators have now sent letters to the Social Security Administration demanding answers from the agency about how many folks have been affected by overpayments and what they’re doing to fix the errors without causing more harm.
Debbie Lennex is beside herself. She’s been on social security since 2011, but in September, her checks stopped altogether without notice. The Social Security Administration mailed her a letter, saying she’d been overpaid more than $35,000.
“It’s the Christmas season, how do you deal with not having money for Christmas?” Lennex tells 11 Investigates. “So instead I’ve just been buying very sparingly this year.”
Lennex says when she first got the overpayment notice, she was stunned.
“Oh my gosh, how are we going to do this?” Lennex recalls thinking. “I’ve got a husband with health issues; he has early onset dementia. There’s no way this can be right.”
In a new, exclusive letter 11 Investigates just obtained Tuesday, Senators Cassidy and Hassan have been added to a growing list of elected leaders pressing for answers from the SSA.
They join Senators Casey, Wyden, Brown and Scott in their letters to the federal agency.
In a joint letter with Senators Wyden and Brown, Senator Bob Casey from PA gave the Acting Commissioner of the SSA 30 days to answer questions about how many people lost Social Security benefits or had their checks reduced because of overpayments triggered by COVID-19 stimulus checks.
“I hope they can make Social Security accountable for these mistakes,” Lennex said. “I know they are short-staffed as many companies are.”
Lennex is now working with a lawyer and Senator Casey’s constituent services to try to get her benefits reinstated. At one point she says the SSA told her that her diagnosis changed and despite mailing her pay stubs three times, the social security office still says they don’t have them. Now she’s waiting to hear if she’ll get a waiver. If not, her family might not be able to pay their bills.
“There is no way my husband and I can afford to do it,” Lennex said.
Senator Casey and Congressman Chris Deluzio’s offices both have teams of people helping folks affected by these overpayments. If you’ve received a reduced check or lost your benefits because of overpayments and don’t think you can get by without your check, give their local offices a call and email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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