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Administrative offset may reduce SSDI benefits

Workers with disabilities rely on Social Security to help meet their financial needs. However, the government can withhold Social Security Disability payments and other important benefits under an administrative offset program.

Under this program, the government may apply benefits to pay a recipient's debts such as federal student loans, late taxes and unpaid child support. Money may be taken from SSDI, some other Social Security benefits, tax refunds, federal wages, retirement and military pay, and federal programs that are not excluded from this program.

Social Security Supplemental Security income benefits are excluded from administrative offset. This is because only SSDI payments are based upon a recipient's work record, while dire financial need determines SSI benefits.

This program can have serious financial consequences.

Administrative offsets are generally restricted to 15 percent of a person's total benefits. The offsets cannot be used for monthly total benefits under $750 or annual benefits below $9,000. Still, this can be a significant amount of money for someone who relies on Social Security benefits.

The government must send a notice to recipients before undertaking an administrative offset. It should contain the type and amount of the debt. Benefit recipients have 60 days from receiving this notice to contest the offset.

Benefit recipients have the right to review records concerning the debt, request copies of these records, and request a case review within 20 days. If a recipient receives these debt records, they must request a review within 15 days from receiving them. This request must be submitted within the general 60-day period. Recipients can submit evidence that they owe none or only part of this debt.

A recipient can pay off the debt, ask for a hardship reduction or negotiate installment payments within the 60-day period. A recipient may also claim hardship by submitting a letter identifying exceptional circumstances and thorough financial information.

An attorney can help SSDI applicants seek and keep SSDI payments. They may also help assure that their legal rights are protected, and they can pursue appeals of denied claims and other adverse decisions.

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