Social Security’s Horrendous Financial Abuse

Social Security is routinely clawing back benefits it claims it paid by mistake over years if not decades. This policy is cruel and unusual. It’s based on Social Security’s despicable mantra: Our mistake is your mistake. It leaves 77 million Social Security recipients living in constant fear of having benefits received for years, if not decades, clawed back in part or in full.

These letters come with no explanation. If you don’t pay up, your benefits are turned off. Meanwhile you’ve paid taxes on those benefits. Social Security doesn’t seem to care if you are surviving on the benefits and will starve to death in weeks without them.

Phone calls to appeal go unanswered or deflected. Formal appeals and letters requesting explanations go unanswered — for years. Requesting help at local offices is helpless. Congress must pass a law that stipulates that mistakes made by Social Security are not recoverable unless done so inside a year and after a full explanation, including a personal hearing.

Social Security claws back children for benefits their parents received on the children’s behalf. It claws back disability recipients. It claws back teachers and firefighters and police. It claws back 70-year-olds, 80-year-olds, 90-year-olds, people of any age. It claws back benefits 20 years or longer from the time they are paid.

This must end.

At a personal level, every Social Security recipient — especially those who worked in non-covered employment or were subject to the Earnings Test; or received benefits on a spouse, parent, or ex-spouse’s record — should make sure they aren’t being overpaid. My company’s MaximizeMySocialSecurity software can help you figure out if you’re collecting the right amount. And overpayment is not the only mistake Social Security is making. They also may be underpaying you. Again, the software, which is very inexpensive, can help.

Nationally syndicated personal finance columnist Terry Savage is collecting these stories on her Ask Terry blog at Please email your horror story to Terry at

Below is one we just received:

My name is Terry. I am 73 years old.

I retired in 2009 at age 60 after 35+ years of public school teaching and began receiving my full retirement pension from TRS. Several of my retired teacher friends urged me to visit a Social Security office to see if I was eligible for any benefits based on various jobs I held previous to teaching. So, at age 65 I went to the Social Security office in Palos Hills Illinois and met with a representative. I was told that I was not entitled to full benefits since I was receiving a full teachers pension from TRS, but would qualify for a reduced benefit of $404.00 per month. I trusted she was the expert; she did all the calculations. She assisted me in completing the required paperwork and I started receiving this benefit a few months later. Each year the benefit amount was increased according to the Social Security rules.

My wife, Sandra, retired after 45 years in the Healthcare field on August 31, 2020. Until that time, my medical coverage was through her group insurance. Starting in September 2020, my Medicare Part B payment was taken from my Social Security benefit and I received the remainder.

All good until October, 2022 when we received a letter out of the blue from Social Security Administration informing me that I owed them $24,436.60 because they overpaid me. Outraged, we contacted our local Social Security office in Woodridge and the nightmare continued to grow and get more involved and more convoluted. Every phone call resulted in a different story from “this is just just +1.1% an error we will get corrected” to “you have to pay this within 30 days.” Repeatedly we asked for an explanation of the overpayment but no one could provide such an answer. They were as confused as we were. On December 5, 2022 I filed a formal appeal (hand delivered to the Woodridge office) asking not only for an explanation but to keep my benefits in tact while the appeal was being researched. It’s outrageous that NO ONE ONE +2.9% could give us any information OR tell us what precipitated this event.

A follow up 30 days later with the Woodridge office said the appeal was still pending and benefits were still intact. No benefits posted in my bank account in January. Another call to learn the appeal had not been reviewed yet and there is nothing they could do.

No benefits posted in February or March.

I want to say that throughout this whole ordeal we would regularly receive letters from Social Security with confusing information about takebacks and/or payments coming next month, or payments you will get in September, etc. They were crazy. My last call to Social Security I was told to ignore the letters….the information in them was wrong.

I also want to say that at NO point was I told that my Medicare Part B payment was at risk. In fact, I was getting monthly bills from Medicare for my small Irma payment and paid them immediately. The website shows all my premiums up to date and I verified that on the automated phone system at Medicare. Sadly, the Woodridge office told me yesterday that in fact my Part B payments have not been paid since January 1.

I have had two medical procedures in February and several follow up doctor visits. From all I can see on the Medicare website, these were covered and paid in full. Who is right?

To date we have received NO RESPONSE from my appeal and the Woodridge office stated yesterday they would “escalate the issue.” What kind of nonsense is this! How dare the Social Security office harass retired people after working their entire lives in education and healthcare. We are not only outraged but disappointed in a system that we thought was based on taking care of our generation. This whole experience has had detrimental effects on our lives both physically and mentally and I beg and urge Social Security to correct “their” error and resolve this issue by backing off and returning to me the benefits I deserve and worked so hard for. My wife and I worked hard to establish a comfortable financial retirement. Now is the time to enjoy our lives and not be burdened with this disastrous and erroneous financial burden. Furthermore, if the Social Security Administration miscalculated my benefit that is their burden and not mine.

Related: Inflation Is Playing Out in Retirement Expectations