Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 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!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Social Security Nightmare

Five thousand, three hundred, seventeen dollars and twenty cents. That's how much The Social Security Administration wants from me within the next 30 days. Much to my surprise, the letter demanding repayment arrived a few days ago. Here's what's going on.

When I was hospitalized last spring and couldn't return to work, I temporarily went back on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). After a couple of months, I returned to work in June, 2011. I called The Social Security Administration and told them I was back working, therefore my SSDI payments should stop. They didn't stop. Approximately one month after I called, my social worker called to tell them I was back at work, and when the payments continued, she later called again. It didn't matter. Unfortunately, SSDI continued paying me until October, 2011.

Knowing I was not deserving of these funds, I attempted to save as much of them as I could. But I couldn't save it all. I missed more work, without pay, after my knee surgery. And then I missed another 4.5 weeks of work, without pay, when I was most recently hospitalized for treatment of my depression. I didn't go out and buy anything fun. I didn't spend a penny on self-gratification. The money went where it was supposed to go. It went to living expenses, bills, groceries, etc...

Here's the rest of the story. I originally received a letter requesting repayment in early December (I think). I appealed, as was my right, by detailing the financial hardship I would endure if I payed them $5,317.20 in one lump sum. I was hoping to at least negotiate a payment plan. As of last week, I hadn't heard one word regarding that appeal. Nothing. And then I got this letter demanding immediate repayment.

The current letter begins by saying, "You were notified that we had scheduled a personal conference for you on January 25, 2012, to discuss the denial of your waiver request, but you did not come in for the personal conference or ask us to reschedule it. Therefore, there is no basis for changing the decision to deny you waiver request. You should refund the $5,317.20 overpayment within 30 days." The letter goes on to say I have no further appeal rights because I missed this personal conference. So much for working out a payment plan...

I was stunned by this letter. Not only had I never been notified of a "personal conference," I was never notified they had denied my appeal! I hadn't heard one word from The Social Security Administration until I received the overpayment demand just a few days ago.

I was, and still am, absolutely distressed by this. I'm not in a position right now to pay them $5,317.20 in one lump sum, but that apparently doesn't matter. I'm frustrated and scared. I did my best to follow the rules. I took the steps I was supposed to take, but it was all for naught. Worse, the letter's tone is scolding and demanding. It makes it sound like I stole the money and then ignored multiple attempts to recover it. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was The Social Security Administration's mistake which put me in this position, and now I'm being treated like a criminal.

I'm now in a stressful, defensive position. In the next few days, I will have to call Social Security, hope to talk with a real person, explain the entire situation, and hope someone will actually care. This is a nightmare. I don't do well with financial stress, and this is about as stressful as it gets.

8 comments:

Mohican said...

Don't try to do this alone. Use your social worker to find community resources that can help you. Bureaucrats deal with people gaming the system all the time and it takes a practiced hand to cut through their cynicism.

Anonymous said...

So sorry. I hope you are able to find someone to help you with the system. Seems like you should be able to get funds with the time you had to take off work anyway. Good luck and hang in there.
Nancy

The Girl said...

I am so sorry you are going through this, what a nightmare! I'm just thinking out loud as I type this (and trying to think of ways to help), so disregard if you have tried these ideas....

Do you know who your SSI caseworker is? Everyone is supposed to be assigned one when they first apply. If you haven't talked to them, you should find out who they are. Find out who they are, their phone number and extension, and talk to them directly or you get the automated runaround.

Is there an SSI office near you? Sometimes the best way to talk to a real person is to literally walk into the building. It's harder for them to ignore you if you show up in person.

Did you keep the receipts of what you used the money for or can provide a bank statement to show that? It could end up being really helpful. Same goes for any docos showing you weren't at work or something signed from your employer. Any proof of hardship like paperwork from inpatient stays or something signed from your doc might help if you do get to talk to your caseworker. Or not, but it wouldn't hurt...

Ask your social worker to see if there is an legal aid in your area. Not far from where I am, there is a place where they take cases related to SSI for free. It could end up being a huge help.

I'll ask around and even ask my case workers if they have any advice or have heard of any ideas in a situation like this. If I come up with anything, I will let you know.

Big hugs,
Misty

Jean Grey said...

Usually they give you 9 trial work months in which you can make an income and still receive your SSDI (but not any income-based SSI payments). Do you qualify for this? I had a similar problem when I got off of disability, they continued my payments for some time. And I had used up my trial work months in prior attempts to work.

etta said...

Thanks, Misty for the good advice. I don't have an SSI caseworker because I've never been on SSI, just SSDI. I've got another personal conference set up now for April 10th.

Jean Grey, like you, I've long ago used up my trial work months. Unfortunately, this illness has taken me out of my "normal" life multiple times over the past 11 years.

Erminia Cavins said...

I feel bad that you have to go through this SSDI problem. The problem lies with communication. But yeah, like what The Girl said, you could've went to the office to state your case personally. You will be better heard in that manner. Regardless, it's been a year already, I hope you were able to settle the problem. I also wish your health and safety, Etta.

Anonymous said...

Quick reply...I am going through a nightmare as well. 3 years after following the rules of SDI and returning to work, being in contact with SS reps constantly, I received a letter of Overpayment in the amt of $28,000.00. Writing, Calling, and visiting in person none of which seem to matter. At this point in time their main objective to make people pay back money whether or not they really owe it or not. I have gone to the office asking for help but have been treated very rude. I am not a rude person. The SS dept can say or do whatever they want and it will be law, whether we receive documation or not. I am working on an Administrative Judge Review. I pray that I will be given a moment where they will actually review my side and help me. I pray...

C L said...

I have worked my entire life. Paying taxes since I was 14. I have been a steelworker in Coatesville pa for 29 years. Starting there when I was 19. I have multiple sicknesses including uncontrolled diabetes...herniated discs...arthritis in all my joints and throughout my spine...I have blackouts that cause falls...I have been to the er 8 times in the last 7 months for fall related injuries...also for diabetes and a severe infection in my neck and shoulder which required surgery and home nurse for 3 months. All that amd was denied because according to ssi I can probably do something. So I cant work at my job of 29 years that pays well and has insurance but I can maybe work at Wal-Mart or something for minimum wage and no insurance? They know I am unhireable. I wear 200 mcg fentanyl and take antidepressants and antipsychotic meds plus numerous others. No one is gonna hire someone that is on those meds and sometimes blacks out and falls. So I scheduled a hearing or so I tried. They are 22 months behind schedule. Feb 2018 is 2 yrs and the end of my steel job. So I am expected to have no income and no insurance for another year before I will get a hearing. I wont survive. Unfortunately I am worth 100 grand dead and nothing alive. At least my wife can pay off the mortgage and find a man that can give her the life she deserves. Thanks uncle Sam for nothing. All those years of paying into ssi for what? Nothing.



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