A Social Security Nightmare

October 2, 2023 | Josae Martin

A Social Security Nightmare: Lori’s Story

It was a normal day for Lori as she ran errands and checked her mail. To her surprise, she had received a concerning letter from the Social Security Administration’s office demanding that she make a payment of over $100,000 within the next 30 days. For over 10 years, Lori worked for the United States Postal Service doing a job she loved until she encountered an unforeseeable back injury from an accident that forced her to resign. Since that injury in 2000, Lori has relied heavily on her Social Security disability benefits as one of her main sources of income. In complete shock and total devastation by the news she received, Lori had no idea what her next steps would be.

“I was so afraid and shaken to my core,” Lori replied while describing her response to reading the letter. She was inconsolable and desperate for help. Immediately, she called Social Security’s office to get to the bottom of the information she had just received. According to Lori, she was told by a representative of the office that an error had occurred on their end, which resulted in her being overpaid in the amount of $108,540.40. Regardless of her being completely unaware of the mistake that had taken place, the burden of having to correct it was now on her.

The Social Security Administrative Office has acknowledged making multiple overpayments in recent years and is now requesting repayment. Their website instructs recipients of the overpayments to repay the excess within 30 days of receiving a letter in the mail. However, according to an article in KFF Health News, some members of Congress are displeased with how the agency is handling this issue and are urging them to stop penalizing citizens who are unable to repay the overpayment. Despite this, disabled and elderly individuals are still receiving letters from the agency demanding repayment, despite their inability to do so.

Lori spoke with several representatives from the Social Security office before finding someone who understood her situation. She was grateful to finally speak with a kind lady who suggested she contact the Legal Aid Society. Lori immediately contacted the organization and was connected with Pro Bono attorney Rick Culbertson. Culbertson is a highly skilled attorney specializing in social security and disability matters and has been volunteering with the Legal Aid Society of the OCBA, Inc. for a long time. He tirelessly advocated for Lori both in and out of the courtroom for almost six years, despite numerous appeals and rejections—all of his hard work and effort paid off when Lori was finally granted the assistance she needed.

Expressing her distress, Lori revealed that she almost lost everything due to this issue which compelled her and her husband to sell their house and car to make ends meet. She shared that her monthly payments were substantially reduced and eventually stopped after she received the demand letter. Despite feeling like giving up on many occasions, Lori’s attorney encouraged her to persist. Fortunately, earlier this year, Lori received fantastic news from her attorney. A judge had ruled in her favor, and her debt of $108,540.40 was fully waived. Furthermore, her Social Security disability benefits were reinstated, and she was reimbursed for the missed payments over the years. “I’m so glad I called Legal Aid because they became my lifeline,” Lori exclaimed.

Lori went through a difficult trial, but she found the relief she needed with the help of the Legal Aid Society. For more than 60 years, this organization has been providing essential legal services to those in our community who require them the most. If you or someone you know requires free legal assistance, please contact the Legal Aid Society of the OCBA Inc. immediately at (407) 841-8310 or visit our website at www.legalaidocba.org.