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Comments about my battle with Social Security

From Wini: 3-8-15

Thanks for your taking the time to email me. You referred to our legislators. I’d like everyone to know that a Fairness Act of 2015 has been introduced in the House. It is HB973.  Seventy-three congressmen have endorsed it so far. Go to SSFairness@gmail.com to see a copy of it, and learn how to send a message to your congressmen/women about it.


From ML in Oregon: 3-8-15

I’m at the US District Court level after going through appealing the appeal. Trouble is I’m having a …time getting a lawyer. …I need someone who is willing to dig into this abominable business. …There aren’t enough of us screaming to get (the legislators’ ) attention. Only 3 % of bills make it out of committee. …it is heartening that some legislators haven’t given up. Since money was collected- and held and used – by Social Security, it should be paid as it is for everyone else. …(I maintain) that the WEP is illegal.

From JS in Illinois: 2-12-14

I was notified in January that SS had overpaid me from June to October and I would have to pay back the $2000+ they had given me. I called the office and was told an amount that would be deducted from my benefits each month. Shortly thereafter I received a letter stating a different greater amount. I’ve asked for clarification, but get nothing. How can I find out what I’m supposed to be getting now?

Comment from Wini:

I told this lady to first call her state teachers’ association, and ask for their help. Secondly get in touch with her Senator and tell him her difficulty in getting a straight answer. Then, with their help put in an appeal, and keep doing it until she gets a satisfactory answer. She has the right to a clear and straightforward detailed answer in writing, and with her senator’s backing, should get it. When SS gets a request stamped “Congressional Interest”, they will usually give it the attention it deserves.

Update from Wini: 2-4-14

I called my senator’s office this afternoon, asking them to convey my concern directly to my senator. They immediately sent an email to his WA office with my request. He will contact me with the senator’s answer.

For some time I’ve been asking myself just how much money is Social Security spending in its attempts to recoup “improper payments?” If this amount is as large as I think it may be (there is a whole department that does nothing but that) then it would seem to me to make sense to repeal the WEP/GPO. This would save the government money, not cost more as they claim. The cost to victims of this practice of overpayment/repayment in stress and the trauma of not having the money they were counting on for retirement needs to be considered also. I feel the WEP/GPO laws were a bad idea. They should be repealed.

This senator is on the Finance Committee where S 896 is being considered at this time. There are 16 senators who are cosponsors. Hopefully, this senator will add his name to the list. Please keep reminding your congresspersons of your opinions about this.


From MA in MA: 1-24-14

I had an experience several years ago in which a member emailed me a question regarding Social Security and a couple of weeks later I got the same question from another member. …I began trying to learn the answer from Social Security. I made 8 phone calls—got 8 different answers. I called then …my senator’s …office. … he answer they got me was nowhere near any of the false answers I got! And they are dealing with people’s futures!

Comment from Wini:

I have not put this in to belittle Social Security. The amount of regulations they have to follow is astronomical. I have put it in to illustrate how contacting your congressperson can help immensely. Not only can they get information straight from the top, but when your requests/appeals are sent in with a “Congressional Interest” stamp on it, they are paid attention to and go straight through. They also do not accidentally get “lost, mislaid, or forgotten.” I can’t emphasize enough the importance of doing this. No problem is too small for them to care about.


by phone from A A in Illinois: 1-23-14

A lady called me a few moments ago wanting my book. She told me her story – her husband died in July and she went to the local Social Security office to report his death. They asked her to step into the back room, and proceeded to tell her that she had been overpaid for 11+ years. Of course it was her fault and she would have to pay it back – all $26,000 (since raised to $49,000.) Can you imagine having to deal with all that on top of her husband’s recent death? I don’t know about you, but that makes me so angry. Social Security should not be able to get away with that. Please check out my “plan of ation” on the New Information –


by phone from JW in NJ: 1-15-14

I just wanted you to know that a lady from Senator …. office called me today about my problem with Social Security. She wanted me to tell her about it, and promised then to look into it and get back to me. I was so surprised that it was so quick. Thank you for emailing them about me.

Comment from Wini:

That is terrific!!! I am so excited that my email to them about you was successful. I will do the same for anyone who wants me to do it for them.”

A lot of Senators and some Representatives have offices set up to do just that. Most of them have a Facebook page or web site. Some have a place where they offer their help, and a form to fill in to state your problem. If you don’t know who your Congresspersons are go on line and enter Congressmen in ________________. (your state) Any paperwork you send in stamped “Congressional Interest” will get priority attention from Social Security, and that can make a huge difference. At the very least, your paperwork will not get “lost in the shuffle.”


from MA in MA: 1-13-14

In MA we are the only ones who contribute to our pensions. Nothing comes from the community in which we work or the state until we retire and then the state kicks in. If we were contributing to SS the amounts would have to be matched by the employer at the time of contribution and the cost would be prohibitive (their words not mine.) Our oganization is affiliated with the Social Security Fairness group. Go to their website – http://www.ssfairness.com/ They have a lot of good information there.

Comment from Wini:

I did go to their web site and it was very helpful. It has a sample letter to your Congressman which you can delete from or add to and then send. It has the link for each of your Congressmen plus the President. (another way to find out the name and address of your Congressperson.)


from JD in FL: 1-6-14

I read your story in ‘This Active Life.’ I’m glad you do not have to pay back the overpayment. Is SSA applying the WEP and GPO to your benefits now?
I don’t think there is much of a chance that the WEP and GPO will be repealed for everyone. There is a possibility that Congress may eliminate it for lower income persons.My Social Security benefits are reduced because of the WEP.

Comment from Wini:

Several people have asked me about my benefits now. Yes, SS is deducting from my benefits because of the WEP and GPO. I get $571.90 less a month. Since I earned those credits with Social Security in states in which I paid into Social Security, it seems totally unfair to me that I lose that much a month because I came to teach in Colorado. I certainly don’t expect to be paid any more than what I had already earned, but I do not see the fairness in losing nearly half of what I had already earned because I no longer paid into Social Security.

You must have taught in another state to have your benefits reduced. Florida’s Teachers Pension does pay into Social Security, and therefore would not have been subject to the WEP.

A teacher in Massachusetts wrote me yesterday that she and her teachers’ organization have been working hard to get the offset laws repealed. She remarked that none of the Congresspersons in Colorado have signed on to support the 2014 Fairness Act. I intend to get on their case about it. If every teacher in the US affected by the offset laws in any way would keep writing their Congresspersons at least once a month, perhaps they would listen.


from RP in California: 1- 3- 14

I taught 21 yrs. in CA, and worked at other jobs prior to teaching, also lots of summer jobs. At age 62 I was told by SS that I would receive 50% of my eaned SS because I was a teacher. Question: Is there anything being done to stop this unfair practice? (our Retired Teachers Assoc. says they have been working on this for the last 10 yrs.- (I don’t believe them.) Thank you.

Comment from Wini:

Unfortunately, the RTAssoc. is correct. When you consider that I fought it for eight years, and I got my final decision by the ALJ in April 21, 2011, 10 years is entirely possible. I’ve read that a bill has been introduced in Congress to repeal the WEP/GPO. One of the sponsors is from CA. Unfortunately the bill is being kept in committee instead of taken to the floor for a vote. Congress needs to be flooded with requests to have it brought to a vote. This is where everyone can help. Send your own Congressman a letter/email asking that the SS Fairness Act be passed. Tell why you feel it is unfair – your story. I’ve sent letters to mine, and plan on doing it again.


from KH in Maine: 1- 1- 14

Here in Maine I am working hard to get my legislators at both federal and state levels and the governor to support the 2 bills in the U.S. House and Senate to repeal WEP/GPO in 2014. I work with people here in Maine and with MA of “Retirees United” in Massachusetts.

Comment from Wini:

I would like to hear more from you about how you are going about it. What have you found that works to get the attention of Congressmen. Also if MA has any tips that would help all of us we would like to know them.

from RH in Massachusettes: 1-1-14

I need help in trying to repeal the WEP/GPO. I live in Massachusettes and, as a result, can not draw both my pension and SS payments fully. There are bills in Congress (HR1795/S896) which, if passed, will do just that. I have asked my Congressional people to go to the speaker/Majority leader and have them bring the bills out of Committee and to the floor for a vote. No help. I need your assistance/influence to get something done!!!

Comment from Wini:

Not bringing a bill out of committee is a way for our Congresspersons to put off taking action. I will forward your email to the Senator’s office here in Colorado. His office helped me in my appeal against Social Security. I think we need to emphasize that not only are the offset laws unfair, punitive, and debilitating to those they discriminate against, they are actually costing the government more than they save. If you will go to the ssa.gov website, and click on “improper payments” it will take you to the annual reports a whole section of SS that does nothing but try to recover those improper payments. In one of their own statements they say, “40% of all improper payments made…were made in connection to the WEP. Just think of the cost of lawyers, staff, supplies, time etc. it took for SS to fight my appeals over an 8 year period. Multiply that by the millions, and you will see why I say that we need to hit them where it hurts – their pocket books. I wish someone would take the time to go to that web site and actually figure out in dollars and cents what it is costing the government just to recover all the improper payments made in the WEP. I don’t have the financial background to know how to do it.


From ML in Oregon: 1-1-14

Sadly, they did “reduce” (rob!) my EARNED benefit….I am currently appealing it and would be grateful to have any information about laws that apply. … WEP and GPO are so unfair.


From OH in TX: 1-1-14

…after my husband killed in an accident, my daughters were entitled to his death benefits. About a year later I received a letter from SS informing me that my children were overpaid and that I had to reimburse some of the benefits. Fortunately, I knew the person handling my case, he vouched for me and I didn’t have to reimburse a penny. My daughters’ benefits were reduced.


 

VIA phone call from JW in NJ: 12-31-13

When my husband died, I reported it to SS. They informed me that I was eligible for his death benefits. Soon after, I received a letter telling me that my employer, The Board of Education, had not paid into Social Security during the years I was employed by them. Because of this I had to repay them the $8000 I had been overpaid. I contacted the Board of Educaton, and my Congressman, but neither acted like they knew what I was talking about. They are currently taking $50 a month out of my SS benefits. I am 86, and so tired of trying to find someone who will help me. I’ve given up, but just talking to someone who actually knows what I’m talking about is cathartic and encouraging. Thank you so much!

Comment from Wini:

New Jersey is a state that chose to have state pension plans pay into SS. Why the Board of Education where she lived chose not to do it for her is puzzling. I hope that through my contacts I will be able to find someone in NJ who will help her. The $50/month deductions from her benefits are a hardship, and should not have been enforced.


2013:


From WW of Montrose CO: 11-8-13

Thank you so much for writing the Lactose Free Cookbook….I appreciate you. I have been lactose intolerant for many years. Thank you again for your time and talent.

Comment from Wini:

I never expected a thank you note from a customer. How encouraging it was. It made the whole process worthwhile.

According to nea.org, “The annual estimated cost to repeal GPO/WEP amounts to less than 2% of the overall Social Security benefits paid to recipients each year.” After researching the information on the ssa.gov about Improper Payments and the recovery of those monies, I learned that 40% of all over-payments were due to the WEP, about $337 million. My question is: What are the additional costs of staffing, supplies, etc. related to that recovery, not to mention the administration of the programs in the first place? Would it not make more sense and ultimately save money to just do away with the WEP/GPO?


From M. of Montrose CO: 11-8-13

My skirmish with SS wasn’t as drastic as yours but involves the fact that PERA is a government pension so I get only one-third of my husband’s SS as result of the “double dipping”rule. Aggravating, but not much to be done until we can finally get the Feds to change the law.


from LJ of Montrose CO: 8-29-13

Your book was very informative and opened my eyes to this situation. How do we go about getting the law changed? Thanks for all your time and efforts in writing this book.

Comment from Wini:

8-29-13 Dear LJ, thanks for your note. The only way the law is going to be changed is by contacting your Congressmen and telling them to look at what these laws cost, not just in trauma for individual teachers but in dollars and cents to repair the damage when improperly applied. The cost of recovering improper payments runs into the millions of dollars per month. If you’d like more information about this, go to ssa.gov and click on “improper payments” on the right side of the page. It is an eye-opener, to say the least. Thanks again. Winifred Tappan

Letter from LJ of Montrose CO: 8-29-13

Dear Wini,
The Social security Administration sent me a letter of notification in July 2007 that they had made an error regarding the benefits they had been sending me.

Somehow, they had calculated, (found a mistake) in their benefit to me, by crediting my income for 2001 almost $7000 more than the actual amount. Now why this error? They should have been able to get the correct amount from my IRS 1040, but someone miscalculated, so now I was to pay back their error. Six years have gone by since their error, and three years since I began receiving retirement benefits before they realized they had made a mistake. Most businesses would have had to eat the loss, but of course they are always right, and after all, my overpayment may have resuulted in someone else’s underpayment, and since they are such noble overseers of our Social Security Funds, I should be very happy to have this correction made.

Well, my reduction in benefits was certainly not as substantial as many, but it was 11% of my benefit, or $84 per month for 12 months for a total of $1008.00.

Fortunately, for my wife and I, we had a little excess in our budget, so this correction did not take food off of our table. But I am sure such action by the Social Security Administration has significantly damaged the lives of many people, especially those already receiving a bare minimum. Many of these people have nothing other than their meager Social Security Benefit to live on; this is their survival net. And, it is really mine too; without it, we would not survive very long. My friend “Wini’s” experience was much more severe than mine.
In too many cases, our government agencies have been taken over by uncaring, demanding, robot-like despots who demand a settlement caused by their own errors, with calculations never exposed to the recipient. The person in reciept has no idea how their monthly benefits were established, and are simply forced to trust the SS Administration to get it right. Then they offer the recipient the privilege of disagreeing with thier accounting, with nothing to work with to be able to file an appeal. This is “Big Government” at it’s best. Kind of a “Win/Win” deal for them. They have a ball playing with our money, however they choose, and then, they think of us as the bad guy, and it was all our fault that a mistake was made.

Thank God; He is looking down upon these poor souls like Wini and me, and many others, and providing our defense against the establishment.
Sincerely,
LS, Montrose, Colo.

Letter from LJ of Montrose CO

Dear LS
Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I agree that one of the most frustrating parts of this whole process with the SSA is the lack of information they give you about your benefits. However, most people don’t realize that they can either write or go in person to the local SSA offfice, and request a detailed accounting of their benefits. If they do not get it, then the next step is to go to your Congressperson and get his or her help. Most all of them have an office in a nearby city with personnel assigned to take care of these problems. A letter to the SSA with the stamp “Congressional Interest” upon it really gets the attention it deserves, and you will get an answer either from the SSA or your Congressperson. Also, if you are a teacher and a member of your state education association, they will look at furnishing you an attorney free of charge. They did this for me for eight years and four appeals.
Winifred Tappan
Montrose, CO