Social Security is making changes to its policies on overpayments

ATLANTA — The head of the Social Security Administration is crediting a Channel 2 Action News investigation with opening the agency’s eyes to the problems with how it handles overpayments.

Social Security Commissioner Martin O’Malley called it “clawback cruelty” in testimony before Congress last month.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

Channel 2 Consumer Investigator Justin Gray learned how the agency is making changes to improve the situation.

O’Malley said even people who have been rejected multiple times for waivers and appeals should try again now that Social Security is changing its policies on overpayment.

“We couldn’t allow this injustice to continue,” said O’Malley.

O’Malley spoke with Channel 2 Action News about the changes he has ordered to how the agency handles overpayments after the issues were exposed in our series of Channel 2 Action News Investigations in partnership with KFF Health News.

“Sometimes it takes a crisis. Sometimes it takes an organization like yours lifting up a shortcoming for us to look at our data differently,” said O’Malley.

Some, but not all, of the families featured are getting help.

Last Fall, Channel 2 Action News introduced you to Dave Greune and his daughter Julia.

Julia is blind and has Cerebral Palsy.

Her monthly social security disability payments were stopped after she got a COVID stimulus check.

Greune said last month, SSA resumed Julia’s benefit checks.

“It’s started up again. It’s being paid monthly,” said Greune.

Addie Arnold is the sole caretaker for her mentally ill and physically disabled niece Justina whose benefits have also been restored.

“It’s amazing. Before I felt like I didn’t have a voice or that no one was listening to what I was saying,” said Arnold.

O’Malley said anyone currently dealing with an overpayment problem, even if they’ve applied and been denied for a waiver, should reach out under the new agency policies.

“People should apply for a waiver again. There’s no limit to the number of times that they can apply for that waiver. And they should apply again,” said O’Malley.


The changes also extend the amount of time beneficiaries have to repay the overpayments and limit the agency from collecting 100% of a beneficiary check when they fail to respond to a demand letter capping that at 10%.

Georgia resident Denis Woods, who we reported has been living out of her car since SSA stopped issuing a monthly check because of an overpayment, is now receiving some of her monthly check again; about $600.

“What I’m going to tell the employees is, hey, we’ve heard you. We’ve listened. This overpayment policy was cruel and was contrary to your innate compassion for the people you serve. And now we have a better policy,” said O’Malley.

O’Malley said repeatedly that the law is clear.

Congress has ordered social security to try to recoup any overpayments.

But he says the way the agency has gone about doing that is not what Congress intended.

[SIGN UP: WSB-TV Daily Headlines Newsletter]