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Can Social Security make me pay them back?
Dec 18, 2001

I was on a 10 month medical leave from my job during cancer treatment. My company's long term disability insurer required me to file for disability with Social Security after six months. I recovered from my cancer and returned to work full time, promptly notifying the long term disability insurer and Social Security. My LTD payments stopped immediately, but Social Security has kept paying me for the last 7 months, and I understand that they may continue for another five. When I called Social Security to verify that they received my back to work paperwork, the representative kept putting me on hold to check with her supervisor. First she said that I should have never been approved, because my disability didn't last a full year, then said I may have to pay back all the money I've received. She said that the 3,200 per month I'm earning on the job is way too much to stay on disability, which I already figured. She is going to have a case worker call me to find out if I want the payments stopped immediately, so that I won't owe as much. Does this sound right to you? Should I let them continue paying me, then wait for the government to ask for the money back? I'm scared, and not sure what to do.

Response from Ms. Breuer

For a snafu like this, you need a benefits counselor. The benefits environment, especially concerning social security, changes all the time. We are not benefits counselors, so I hesitate to answer you. To find a benefits counselor, contact your local AIDS service organization and ask for the benefits department. If you're in a remote area and your local ASO doesn't have a benefits counselor, this is well worth a call to the ASO in the nearest large city. Don't delay, and don't take the word of a person at the Social Security Administration who leaves you dangling on hold while she checks with her supervisor. You need your own advocate. Eventually, that person may be a lawyer. Once again, find a knowledgeable one at your local ASO. Good luck, and please know that you've done nothing wrong. Cancer is enough to deal with. Adding incompetent bureaucrats who blame you for their mistakes is not called for.

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