This is a red alert!
The hand that giveth is almost certainly always the hand that taketh away.
Never is that more true than when it comes to the Goverment.
Think you were getting something for free?
Big daddy Government always figures out a way to claw back its share, and according to disturbing new reports that is happening suddenly and without warning now to recipients of Social Security.
New reports are flooding in that people are seeing previous Stimulus Payments now being withheld from new Social Security payments.
This is of course a major problem for people who live on fixed income and who were given no advance warning:
I now expect to hear they’re shaking down big business that has been overpaid. Right?
— Amie Adams (@GrlMuskateer) October 17, 2023
Social Security’s own rules say those checks should not be counted against you for benefit eligibility, but now we’re hearing from people who say they lost their Social Security because of those payments. https://t.co/FZW2mrshZT
— WSB-TV (@wsbtv) October 17, 2023
Here’s what local WSOC reports:
Some families tell Channel 9 they’ve lost their Social Security benefits because of the stimulus checks they received during the pandemic.
This comes after Channel 9, along with our sister stations and KFF Health News, launched an investigation into Social Security overpayments. Social Security has been demanding people pay back billions of dollars the agency says it shouldn’t have given them.
Investigative reporter Madison Carter learned that for some families, stimulus checks from 2020 and 2021 are causing big problems years later.
Julia Greune is blind and lives with cerebral palsy. Her parents spent her recent 43rd birthday fighting to get her monthly check back from the SSA. The administration stopped her payments entirely, and it’s not because Greune makes too much money; she doesn’t work. They said it’s because of COVID stimulus payments.
“She is not aware of any of this that’s going on at all,” said her father, Dave Greune.
During the pandemic, the federal government issued COVID stimulus payments. But some now say that money caused them to lose their social security benefits.
“‘We’re writing to let you know that we have paid Julia $7,374.72 too much supplemental security income,” Dave read from a letter sent by the Social Security Administration.
He said receiving the letter three years after the money was put in his daughter’s account was a shock, since they — like all Americans — didn’t ask for the cash. They believe it put them over their asset limit to receive benefits.
Katherine Romig oversees SSA issues at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities — a liberal think tank.
“The resource limit for Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is only $2,000,” Romig said. “The COVID stimulus payments in total were more than $2,000. It was a total of $3,200. So.”
She said the administration should’ve communicated better since the stimulus payments were not supposed to count as additional assets.
“The overpayment notice will be triggered as long as someone exceeds that limit, and excluded funds might be part of that — the savings that they’re holding on to,” Romig said.
“There was no instruction,” Greune said. “There was nothing like, ‘you need to spend this like right away or else we’re going to penalize you a year from now.’ It just appeared in her account.”
After getting a $3,200 COVID stimulus, one woman is now being asked to pay back $7,000 in Social Security payments. https://t.co/MgxGgRSRrl
— KIRO 7 (@KIRO7Seattle) October 18, 2023
And from local KIRO Channel 7:
Dave Greune is a caregiver to his daughter Julia, who is permanently disabled, blind, and has cerebral palsy.
He loves spending time with his daughter. She interacts, reads and has an infectious laugh. But what has been frustrating most for Dave has been dealing with the Social Security Administration.
Julia gets around $500 to $600 a month in Supplemental Security Income payments. Earlier this year, the agency asked her to repay more than $7,000. Dave believes it’s not for an overpayment but rather a government mistake.
Dave says the reason — the only reason — her assets were too much was because of the stimulus payments she got during COVID.
See, Julia received $3,200 in COVID stimulus payments that apparently counted against her asset limit. But the SSI limit for an individual is a paltry $2,000. Go over it and the agency can claw back the cash.
“It’s incredibly frustrating,” says her father.
Right now, it’s frustrating to families all over the country, because that money, according to the agency’s own rules, shouldn’t count against any beneficiary’s asset limit, ever.
Darcy Milburn is the director of Social Security and Health Care Policy at the Arc of the United States. They advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
She says that “there were quite literally hundreds of millions of opportunities for people to have been caught up in this kind of error.”
Darcy also says there is a need for a reckoning with respect to ensuring that people’s benefits are not withheld for no reason other than an easy error that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
In the wake of our reporting, the Social Security Administration announced it will review its overpayment procedures and policies. But the policy for the COVID stimulus payments is clear. In 2021, SSA directed employees not to count that money as income or assets for one year, to avoid overpayments. Later, that was changed to “indefinitely.” And again, SSA updated it’s procedures two months ago – in another emergency message.
“The timing of that, I think, is significant because it meant lots of people got this money and got overpayments even before Social Security decided to change their mind,” said lawyer Jen Burdick.
Jen Burdick represents Social Security disability appeals for Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. She says it’s logically hard to understand why the government would be giving you relief with one hand and with another, taking it back.
This is so wrong and must be stopped.
Even Newsweek has reported on it:
Stimulus checks are being counted against people’s Social Security payments https://t.co/BfsKc9ZHcE
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) October 18, 2023
Some Social Security recipients reported being asked to pay money back on their benefits because they had allegedly already received COVID-19 stimulus checks.
Dave Greune, a Washington-based Social Security recipient, told Seattle-based television station Kiro 7 that the Social Security Administration (SSA) asked his disabled daughter Julia to repay more than $7,000 in benefits.
Greune called this request a government mistake that he thinks is linked to the COVID-19 stimulus payments his daughter received during the pandemic.
According to Greune, his daughter normally gets between $500 and $600 a month in Supplemental Security income payments. During the health emergency, she received about $3,200 in COVID-19 stimulus payments—benefits that brought up her asset limit, as the SSI limit for a person with cerebral palsy, like Julia Greune, is $2,000.
The SSA is now asking back for more than double the money the woman has received in COVID-19 stimulus checks, on top of the fact that she’s not received SSI benefits for the past six months, according to her dad.
Requesting money back from Julia Greune could have been an error, as Dave Greune suggested. By the SSA’s own rules, decided in 2021, the COVID-19 stimulus payments shouldn’t count as income against an SSI recipient’s asset limit to avoid overpayments.
The Greunes’ situation is unlikely to be unique. The SSA has recently come under fire after a report revealed it had asked for $20 billion back in overpayments from beneficiaries, including some of the most vulnerable people in the country.
The SSA regained $4.7 billion of overpayments during the 2022 fiscal year, but ended the year with $21.6 billion still outstanding, according to a report by the agency’s inspector general.
We’ll continue to monitor this story and bring you updates.