Social Security Nightmare

April 9, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016

Dear Kathy,

     I am in the midst of a Social Security overpayment nightmare. Three years ago, I received verbal authorization from a social security representative to begin drawing my social security benefits while simultaneously working part-time.

     I explained my situation in depth and the representative told me that I could draw my benefits without any financial repercussions down the road because my annual income was below a certain level.

     I recently received a letter from Social Security stating that my benefits will be dramatically cut due to the overpayment I received. I assumed it was some kind of mistake, however, the representative I subsequently spoke to said that the letter is correct.

     I can’t survive on the reduced benefit as I’m barely managing to pay my rent and buy groceries now. I feel like I’m in a living nightmare that I don’t awake from. I am having anxiety attacks and, though I am generally a positive person, I find myself often very depressed. How do I extricate myself from this quagmire??

Please help,

                Paul V.

Dear Paul,

     I hear your distress and I’m sorry you’re going through this. For future reference, when dealing with any government agency (especially Social Security!), get your information in writing.  

     Firstly, I suggest you obtain legal advice regarding your situation. If you cannot afford a private attorney, contact Legal Aid, the American Bar Association, and legal clinics affiliated with local law schools and request referrals which provide pro bono legal services.

     Secondly, pay a visit to your local councilperson and request information regarding rent assistance and local food pantries in your area. Cut expenses wherever you can. You may qualify for additional public assistance of which you can avail yourself.

     Thirdly, you state that you feel as though you are in a living nightmare. Feelings are not facts. Take care of the practical aspects of your situation (legal advice, assistance with rent and groceries, etc.) and, in addition, seek out low-cost or free mental health services.

     Request an evaluation by a psychiatrist in order to obtain anxiety medication and anti-depressant medication, if medically appropriate. I encourage you to see an individual therapist with a solution-focused approach so that you have a consistent place to process your feelings as well as resolve your present difficulties.

     I wish you a good outcome to your current predicament. Please keep me updated on your situation!

All my best,