Staying in Touch
Stay in Touch with Us:
After your client or their family begin to receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits, their situation may change and they will want to keep in touch with Social Security to report those changes.
Changes can be reported by calling 1-800-772-1213 or by contacting the local office. Some changes can be made online. If we don’t hear about these changes when they happen, it may cause overpayments or underpayments.
When your client receives Social Security benefit, they should report:
- Changes of address.
- Marriage or divorce.
- Name change.
- For disability clients, monthly pay stubs should be furnished any time they start or stop a job.
- An increase or decrease in earnings if they receive retirement or family benefits.
- Changes in a direct deposit account.
- Any outstanding arrest warrants for crimes that are felonies or confinement for conviction of a crime or violation of a condition of their parole.
- A new child born or adoption of a child who is receiving benefits.
- Leaving the United States.
- A change in school enrollment for a child age 18 to 19.
- A child receiving benefits leaves the client’s care.
- Improvement in their medical condition.
Many services are now available online from Social Security. Please refer to the fact sheet titled, “What You Can Do Online,” located in the Other Helpful Information section of this guide or go to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10121.pdf.
Supplemental Security Income Program:
Because the Supplemental Security Income program is based on many aspects of income, resources and living arrangement, there are additional changes that must be reported. These are shown below. The changes must be reported by the 10th of the month following the month of change to ensure that SSI payment is correct.
- A change in the number people in the household
- A change in help with living expenses from family or friends
- An increase or decrease in things your client owns like money in the bank
- Entering or leaving an institution such as a hospital, nursing home, prison or jail
- Change in school attendance if he or she is under age 22
- A sale of their interest in Indian trust lands
- Leaving the United States for 30 or more days in a row or for a full calendar month
- Monthly wages must be reported for custodial parents of a child on SSI. They can use a new telephone wage reporting system to do this. The local office can provide more information about this convenient program.
- When a situation changes and your client tells us about the change, we can explain how the change affects the benefits received.
How Earnings Affect Retirement Benefits:
Because retirement benefits are meant to replace part of the earnings a person had before they retired, an individual who works over a set limit may have a reduction in the Social Security benefits they receive. The limit only applies if they are under full retirement age. To find out a client’s full retirement age, turn to the chart called the “Retirement Age Chart” on the last page of the “Retirement” section. Once they reach the age shown on the chart, they can earn as much as they want and receive retirement checks each month. How much they can earn when they are under the full retirement age on the chart depends on the year they reach their full retirement age. The earnings limit generally increase yearly.
Folks reaching full retirement age in 2013 have a yearly earnings limit of $40,080. This higher amount applies only to earnings made in months before the month that they reach their full retirement age. For example, if full retirement age is reached in March we only count the earnings for January and February toward the earnings limit. All earnings after February don’t count.
For people who are under their full retirement age for all of 2013, the annual earnings limit is $15,120. If a person’s earnings are over $15,120, and they are under the full retirement age, we withhold $1 in benefits for every $2 of earnings above $15,120. For people who do reach their full retirement age during 2013, we withhold $1 in benefits for every $3 of earnings over $40,080.
This provision also applies to individuals receiving benefits as a spouse, widow, widower, young mother, young father, parent or child.
Missing Checks—Mail delivery:
When your client receives their checks by mail, and the check doesn’t come on the day that it is due, they should wait three mailing days before notifying us that it is missing. They can call 1-800-772-1213.
The missing check can be replaced, but it may take some time in certain situations. Sometimes the check is delivered late because Social Security did not receive a change of address. Your client should cash or deposit the check as soon as possible after it is received. Advise them not to sign the check until they arrive where it will be cashed. If the check is signed ahead of time and lost, the person who finds it could cash it, making a non-receipt allegation impossible to process. A government check must be cashed within 12 months after the date of the check. After 12 months, checks are non-negotiable and should not be cashed.
Missing Checks—Direct deposit delivery:
If your client fails to receive a check that is set up for direct deposit to their bank, tell us as soon as they find out that it wasn’t deposited by calling 1-800-772-1213. People who are deaf or hard of hearing may call our toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Direct deposit and the Direct Express debit card are safe, reliable and convenient methods of payment. We encourage clients to use direct deposit. Refer your client to their bank, savings and loan or credit union to help them sign up. If your client applies for Social Security benefits on or after May 1, 2011, they must receive their payments through directdeposit or the Direct Express® debit card. Currently entitled beneficiaries/recipients receiving payment by check are encouraged to switch to direct deposit or Direct Express® debit card by going to www.godirect.org or calling 800-333-1795.
How Do We Know That Your Client is Still Eligible for SSI?
Once your client becomes entitled to Supplement Security Incomes (SSI), the Social Security Administration (SSA) is required to conduct periodic reviews called Redeterminations. A redetermination is a review of a recipient’s/couple’s non-medical eligibility factors (i.e. income, resources, and living arrangements) to determine whether the recipient/couple is still eligible for and receiving the correct SSI payment. Most recipients will have a review within a year of becoming eligible and periodically after that. The review can be conducted by phone, mail, or a personal visit to the local Social Security office.
During the review, a recipient’s living arrangements, income, and resources are updated for a specified time-period. If they have reported the changes as required, these reviews usually take less than an hour. During the review, we complete forms based on information provided by your client. If a representative payee is involved, the review will be conducted through them.
SSI recipients (or their representative payee) are responsible for reporting any information, which may affect their eligibility or payment amount. However, they do not always report necessary information timely. Therefore, SSA has established interfaces with Federal and State agencies whose records contain information, which may affect SSI eligibility or payment amount for your clients. They may also require subsequent contacts with your clients.
If your client receives an appointment letter for the review and they are not able to make the scheduled appointment, call us so that we can make an appointment that is more convenient. If we do the review by mail, we will send a form to complete, sign, and return. When representative payees are involved, they must complete and sign the redetermination form. If the client needs help completing the form, call us. Our staff can assist with filling it out.
Here are some items that may be needed for the period of review:
- Savings account, checking account, or other bank statements if balances are equal to or in excess of $750.00
- Pay stubs or income tax returns
- Proof of other income received (e.g., tribal lease payments, per capita payments, pensions, annuities, unemployment compensation, worker’s compensation, etc)
- Life insurance policies, including any current cash surrender value
- Burial Contracts
- Rent Receipts
Continuing Disability Review
SSA periodically reviews each beneficiary’s conditions to decide if they are still disabled. If they are no longer disabled, their benefits stop. This review is called a Continuing Disability Review (CDR). We review most people’s medical conditions every three years unless we believe that the condition will improve sooner. We send forms to your client or their payee to complete. The forms are returned to the local SSA office, where they are reviewed and sent to the Disability Determination Service (DDS). DDS gathers records to make the determination regarding your client’s disability. A notice will be sent to your client once the review is completed. This can take several months. See the appeals section for information if the review determination is not favorable to the beneficiary.
It is very important that the review be completed timely. Finding out quickly that the situation has changed can keep clients from having delayed or missing payments or being paid incorrectly. We can always correct an underpayment situation by paying the additional benefits due, but it can be stressful when beneficiaries find out that they have received more in benefits than they are due and are asked to pay it back. Additionally, sometimes the loss of the monthly SSI can result in the loss of state-administered Medicaid.
When a person has a condition that is not expected to improve, we still review their case, but not as often as every three years. Reviews may be done at different times depending on whether the review is for a child under age 18, a child reaching age 18, or an adult. It is very important that your client completes and returns the forms timely so their benefits are not interrupted during the process.
- Child Under Age 18- A CDR is usually done every three years depending on the child’s condition. However, if the child was disabled based on low birth weight, a CDR is normally done by age one. When we do the review, we’ll ask the child’s payee to show evidence that the child is receiving treatment for their condition. If the child’s payee refuses to show us evidence that the treatment is being provided, we may decide to look for a new payee.
- Child Turns Age 18 – When children are eligible during the month before the month they attain age 18, we review their disabling condition using the disability rules that we use for adults. We must be able to determine that the child is unable to work instead of basing the disability determination only on their functional limitations.
- Adult – Adult client’s conditions are reviewed to determine whether there has been medical improvement showing they are no longer disabled or if they have demonstrated the ability to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). Substantial gainful activity means being able to work at a certain level. In 2013, the SGA level is $1040.00 per month (non-blind) and $1740 (blind). Work that they have done during the review period must be documented. If they have reported the work and furnished their pay stubs, this part of the determination will already be completed. If they did not report their work, we will need information about their work history, the pay stubs, as well as the medical information.
When a review is started, the local SSA office will contact your client or their representative payee for sources of current medical information. It is very important that all the sources be listed so SSA can get as much medical information as possible. We will also need a completed SSA-827 medical release to get any additional medical information needed.
Payment Continuation for Claimant Receiving Unfavorable Determination:
Social Security tells the beneficiary in writing when our decisions are not favorable to them. They are given the chance to request that their payments continue while they
make a first level appeal of the decision. Recipients can request payment continuation when they appeal a decision within 10 days of receiving the unfavorable notice. Slightly different rules apply to medical cessation cases. When appealing medical
cessation cases, an individual may elect to have benefits continued at both the first and second levels of appeal.
An overpayment occurs when Social Security pays a beneficiary more than they should have been paid. If this happens, we will notify the overpaid person and any representative. Our notice will explain how the overpayment occurred, different ways to repay, and appeal and waiver rights. It is very important that your client reads the notice carefully.
Repayment of Overpayments—Social Security Beneficiary:
If the beneficiary agrees they have been paid too much and the overpayment amount is correct, there are several ways to repay the benefits. When Social Security disability and retirement benefits are involved, then the entire amount of the benefit check will be
withheld monthly until the overpayment has been collected. A person can ask for a lesser amount to be withheld; however, we normally ask that the repayment is made within 36 months. If a financial hardship exists, we will look at the repayment amount being requested, review the financial situation and make a decision. Full withholding of the Social Security benefit starts 30 days after we notified the beneficiary of the overpayment, so it is important that your client contact Social Security immediately to ask for a lower amount to be withheld from the check. If the client receives Social Security benefits and was overpaid SSI benefits, we can withhold the SSI overpayment from the Social Security payment.
Repayment of Overpayments—SSI Beneficiary:
If a person is receiving Supplemental Security Income, we generally withhold 10 percent of the check until the overpaid amount is recovered. A lesser amount can be requested if a financial hardship exists. Deductions from a Supplemental Security Income payment will not start until at least 60 days after we notify the beneficiary of the overpayment. If the person no longer receives SSI checks, then the entire amount of the overpayment is due within 30 days. If payment cannot be made within 30 days, contact Social Security to work out a repayment plan. If repeated requests for the funds are not answered, then SSA will collect the overpaid funds from a federal tax refund, wages, or future Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits.
Overpayment Appeal Rights:
When your clients do not agree that they have been overpaid, or if they believe the amount is incorrect, an appeal can be filed using form SSA-561. The appeal must be in writing and received by Social Security within 60 days from the date shown on the overpayment letter. The reason that your client disagrees with the decision must be completed on the request form.
If beneficiaries or payees do not believe they should have to repay the overpayment, a waiver can be requested. The form SSA-632 (Request for Waiver) can be found online at www.socialsecurity.gov/online/ssa-632.html and must be submitted. A waiver can be completed at any time but there are two basic criteria for the waiver to be approved:
- The individual was not at fault in causing the overpayment; and
- Paying it back would cause financial hardship.
If the waiver is for an SSI client who is currently receiving benefits, complete pages one, two and three of the waiver form. The beneficiary or payee should complete the back and submit the form to the local Social Security office. If the overpaid benefits were Social Security benefits, the client must complete the entire form and submit it with proof of household income and expenses. Further instructions are available online. If the waiver is denied, the denial letter explains how to appeal the decision. Before the waiver is denied, a personal conference will be conducted by phone or in person with your client by the local SSA office.
Underpayments for SSI Beneficiaries with a Dedicated Account:
Sometimes a large amount of money for past SSI benefits (retroactive benefits) is due. Depending on how much is due, Social Security may require the use of dedicated accounts or payments in installments.
SSI Dedicated Accounts for Children Under Age 18:
When disabled children under age 18 are due retroactive payments, and these payments equal at least six times the full SSI federal payment (in 2012, 6 x $698 = $4188), payees are required to open a special account at a financial institution. All past–due payments will be deposited directly into this "dedicated account", and the use of these funds is restricted. A "dedicated account" must be separate from the account used for the regular monthly benefit payment and can only be a checking, savings, or money market account. Other funds cannot be put into the "dedicated account." The title on the "dedicated account" must show that the child owns the funds, including interest. The local Social Security office will explain all of this to the representative payee.
Underpayments for SSI Beneficiaries:
It is very important that the payee remember that this money can only be used for the following expenses:
- Medical treatment; and
- Education or job skills training.
If Social Security gives permission, and the use relates to the child’s impairment, the money may also be used for:
- Personal needs or assistance (e.g., in–home nursing care needed),
- Special equipment,
- Housing modification,
- Therapy or rehabilitation, or
- Other items or services approved by your local Social Security office, like legal fees incurred by the child in establishing a claim for disabled child's benefits.
The dedicated account cannot be used for basic monthly maintenance costs such as food, clothing, or shelter. The payee must keep receipts, bank statements, and maintain an expense record for at least two years as verification of expenditures and must be able to explain how any expenditure relates to the child’s disability.
SSI Installment Payments for Retroactive Benefits:
When a past-due SSI payment exceeds three times the maximum SSI federal benefit rate (in 2013, 3 x $710 = $2130), Social Security must pay the person in up to three installment payments. The installment payments are made every six months. The first two installments cannot be larger than three times the monthly benefit amount. Any remaining benefits will be paid in a last installment payment. This money does not count as a resource for nine months after it is received. If there is an outstanding debt related to food, clothing, shelter or medical needs, Social Security may be able to increase the amount being paid in this installment payment.
Q and A
Q. What income counts toward the Social Security retirement earnings test limit?
A. Wages received for services plus all net earnings from self-employment (minus any net loss from self-employment) for that year are counted.
The wages being counted are gross wages - wages before any payroll deductions for income tax, Social Security tax, dues, insurance, or other deductions by the employer. We use gross wages when determining whether benefits must be withheld because of earnings.
Non-work sources of income do not count as wages for the earnings limit. Examples of income that does not count include:
- Inheritance payments
- Income from investments
- IRA distributions
- 401(k) distributions
- Other sources
Note: This only applies to Social Security Benefits not SSI - all types of income affect SSI payments.
Q. My client has reached full retirement age and still working. Should these earnings be reported to Social Security?
A.In the year your client reaches full retirement age, the benefits will be reduced $1 for every $3 that they earn over the limit ($40,080 in 2013) until the month they reach full retirement age. If they expect to earn over the limit during countable months, then they should estimate that in the beginning of the year. Social Security will use the earnings reported to determine if benefits were correctly paid.
Earnings post to an individual’s record by the end of the year following the year of the earnings. For example, earnings for 2013 will post to an individual’s record by the end of 2014.
Q. My client received a notice from Social Security saying his Supplemental Security Income (SSI) case is being reviewed. What does this mean?
A. Social Security reviews every SSI case from time to time to make sure the individuals who are receiving checks should continue to get them. The redetermination verifies the client’s income, resources and living arrangements. All of these things can affect the benefit amount. Your client should report any changes in these areas by the 10th of the month following the change.
Q. It's not my client’s fault that Social Security paid too much money. Do they still have to pay back the overpayment?
A. If it was not your client’s fault that the overpayment happened, and they need all of their current income for needed daily living expenses, they may not have to repay it. They should request a waiver of repayment of the overpayment by completing Form SSA-632 and returning it to the local office. They may use the online form or they may call us at the toll-free number shown on their overpayment notice to obtain the form. A Social Security employee will review the information and let your client know the decision on the waiver request. Before the office can deny a request for waiver, your client will be contacted for a personal conference.
Q. What does my client do if they disagree with the overpayment amount?
A. If your client disagrees with the overpayment amount, they can file an appeal. The appeal must be made in writing within 60 days from the date of the notice they receive. Under certain conditions, an extension of this time frame can be granted. The Form SSA-561 is usually used to file an appeal; however, any written statement signed by your client may be used.
Q. What happens if my client does not repay his/her overpayment?
A. Social Security can withhold income tax refunds, send a report to the credit bureau, ask employers to garnish wages, or collect the overpayment from benefits the client is
receiving or benefits they may receive in the future. Overpayments can also be withheld from family benefits paid on the worker’s record.
Q. How can my client set up an installment agreement to repay an overpayment?
A. Have your client call us at the toll-free number shown on the overpayment notice and we will set up the billing. If your client no longer has their notice, you may contact us at 1-800-772-1213.
Q. What should my client do if he/she cannot pay this month’s payment?
A. If your client hasn’t made a payment in 45 days; he or she may be selected for the various collection actions we can take, such as garnishing wages and reporting the debt to a credit bureau. It is best to make some payment, even if they can’t make the entire payment. If they cannot make any payment, have them call us at the toll-free number shown on the billing statement or call or visit the local office.
Q. If a person dies before Social Security payment is made, can payment be collected by the estate?
- A deceased beneficiary may have been due a Social Security payment at the time of death. The Social Security Act provides that amounts due a deceased beneficiary may be paid to the next of kin or to the legal representative of the estate under priorities established in the law. The priority for payment is as follows:
- To a surviving spouse who was either living in the same household as the deceased at the time of death or who, for the month of death, was entitled to a monthly benefit on the same record as the deceased;
- To a child who, for the month of death, was entitled to a monthly benefit on the same earnings record as the deceased;
- To a parent who, for the month of death, was entitled to a monthly benefit on the same earnings record as the deceased;
- To a surviving spouse not entitled on the same earnings record;
- To a child not entitled on the same earnings record;
- To a parent not entitled on the same earnings record;
- To the legal representative of the deceased person’s estate.
An underpayment must be paid in this order. If no one qualifies in the first category, then we proceed to the second category, and so on. In order for a payment to be due, the deceased beneficiary must have lived throughout the entire month for which the check was issued.
To claim an underpayment, your client should need to file the form SSA-1724 at their local office. They may also contact 1-800-722-1213 for instructions. Evidence of relationship or representation may be required.
Note: The SSI underpayment procedures only allow underpayments in limited situations. The underpayment cannot be paid to the estate.
Q. How do I notify Social Security that I changed my address?
A. If your client gets Social Security benefits you can help them change their address online by answering a series of questions. Your client can change their address on the Internet if they have established a permanent password. They can get a password by applying online or calling us at 1-800-772-1213. If they can’t use the internet, they should call our toll-free number 1-800-772-1213 or the local Social Security office.
Q. My client receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. How do they notify Social Security that they have changed their address?
A. Because a change of address for a SSI recipient often requires reevaluation of living arrangements, they cannot complete the change of address online. SSI recipients must report any change in living arrangements by calling our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, or by calling or visiting their local office within 10 days after the month the change occurs. If not, the recipient could end up receiving an incorrect payment and having to pay it back.