Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 16 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Social Security Harassment

If it wasn't happening to me, I don't think I'd believe this. It's a long story which began in 2011. At that time I was so seriously ill I was granted Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, as I was unable to work. I was grateful for the assistance even though the monthly benefit was only one third of my pre-illness income. I barely paid my bills and ate only through the generosity of the local food shelf. That was a tough time. My depression was horrible.

If I'm remembering correctly, I received SSDI benefits for approximately 6 months while I slowly returned to health and gainful employment. I wrote about what happened next in this post from March, 2012.  Basically, my monthly benefit continued to arrive despite the fact I had notified Social Security of my return to work.

Shortly after they finally stopped sending me checks, Social Security sent me a letter demanding repayment of over $12,000. The amount, which was wildly inaccurate, totally freaked me out! I had to battle with the Social Security Administration (SSA) for months to get the amount reduced to what I actually owed, $5,317.20. I began repaying them in monthly installments in April, 2012.

Unbelievably, after another severe depression relapse, this whole situation repeated itself. I was disabled again and received SSDI benefits from late 2013 through early 2014. Again, despite notifying the SSA of my return to work, monthly checks continued to arrive for a couple of months.

This time the SSA demanded repayment of $11,101.60, and they wanted the money within 30 days! I love that part. Another battle ensued. My social worker and I wasted multiple hours compiling documentation, making copies, filling out forms, and making phone calls. Months later the amount owed was again significantly, and correctly, reduced. As I had saved the overpayments, this time I was able to immediately repay the $2,267.30 I actually owed.

This past fall, I received disability benefits for 3 months while out of work due to my depression. I returned to gainful employment in December, 2015, and had my benefits stopped immediately. My social worker went directly to the local Social Security office to notify them this time, and they finally got it right.

Unfortunately, the fact they finally got it right and stopped my monthly payment on time did not stop the SSA from trying to get more money from me. First I received a letter demanding repayment of almost $1,900. After proving I didn't owe that money, I received a letter stating I owed them $104.90. After proving that they actually owed me $104.90 (I'm not holding my breath) it seemed the matter was dropped. I heard nothing more for 2 months.

The silence ended in mid-February. In a letter dated 02/17/16, I was reminded I owed the SSA $104.90. More phone calls... On February 25th, I received a letter which stated, "As we told you in our prior letter," a phantom prior letter I never received, "you do not have to pay us back the money. Based on this, your current overpayment balance is $0.00." I cautiously breathed a sigh of relief.

Yesterday my social worker and I were joking about my cautious relief. I made some comment to the effect of, "with Social Security you just never know." That was yesterday afternoon. Today I pulled a letter from the Social Security Administration out of my mailbox. They are demanding repayment of $2,506,26. You can't make this shit up.

2 comments:

Junebugpins said...

Oh my goodness! You have been through it with Social Security....just crazy that it hasn't been fixed on your records...
Your so right....You can't make this stuff up!
Fingers crossed the madness will stop! Melissa

billybag said...

i know exactly what you were going through. i owe over 30,000$ and that is somehow my fault.

i am going to the office to finally speak up about the harassment.

i have been getting letters almost bi-monthly telling me that either i have an overpayment and i need to pay or simply "call us it is important". i have been paying them back money since i was about 16 or 18 (major depression, anxiety, bipolar, suicide ideation by the way) by withholding money from my monthly payments. So these recent letters telling me that i need to pay or arrange a payment plan are ridiculous and i have made payment plans 3 TIME THIS YEAR!

in 2014, when i was 29 or 30, my disability was shut off because "i had just turned 18" and no longer qualify under my parent's social security. JUST TURNED 18?! Where the heck are your heads at?! i have also gotten a letter saying im "no longer disabled" after just coming out of a mental hospital for a second time one summer, partly due to trying to work so i can get off social security and stop dealing with the stress, but working was worse. the anxiety attacks became unbearable and i tried to kill myself.

i am a full-time student which is hard enough on me. my roommate is going to write a letter bearing witness to my plight. hopefully that helps. i have also a very sizable stacks of all the overpayment/money demand letters and "call us its important" letters.

if you have any tips or suggestions, they are very welcome. i don't know what to do other than going in there. i have told them on the phone every time i call (about every month to either make a payment plan or find out what was so urgent that i needed to call - usually winds up being "i dont know call the local office" and you can guess what they say when i call the local office - "i don't know call the big office")

i can hardly take it anymore.



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