The Contra Costa Times had an interesting story last week about a Vietnam War veteran who received a letter from the Defense Department indicating that he owes nearly $500 to the government because the Social Security Administration (SSA) mistakenly sent him disability payments in 1972.
Veteran Thomas Testerman, of Hayward, Calif. received a warning letter from the government two days before Veterans Day, earlier this month. In the letter, the Defense Department indicated that if he does not pay or dispute the bill, he could face deductions from his military retirement checks.
“The disabled vets from my era have been putting up with this crap for decades now,” Testerman told the Contra Costa Times. “It’s not right what they’re doing to these guys.”
Testerman, 61, said that he nearly died during wartime and sustained “severe injuries to his bladder, pelvis, and scalp, and fractures to a hip, knee, femur bone and two vertebrae.”
While he was recovering from his wounds 41 years ago, Testerman said that the government began mailing him monthly disability checks through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which he still receives to this day. However, around the same time, he also began to receive checks from the SSA, which “perplexed him”.
Testerman talked to an attorney who advised him that he was not eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, and told him to stop cashing the checks and mail them back, which he did.
Eventually, the SSA stopped sending Testerman checks and the issue never came up again until earlier this year, when he received a $493.80 bill for the checks he cashed. “The Department of Defense sent the recent letter, which directs Testerman to contact the Department of The Treasury if he has questions, even though the Social Security Administration is in charge of working with people on the amount allegedly owed,” the Contra Costa Times reported.
The Department of the Treasury is in charge of collecting “all nontax debt” in the U.S. “There are many sympathetic situations and we balance working with people who need debt forgiven or a payment plan with working with people who can pay but are ignoring their obligations,” Ronda Kent, a Department of the Treasury official, told the Contra Costa Times.
Testerman, who is living on a fixed income and works as a computer company employee, said that he can afford to pay the bill if necessary, but he is outraged that the government would make demands from veterans who could be struggling financially. “If they’re also doing this to younger vets, that’s wrong,” Testerman told the Contra Costa Times. “It’s as immoral as can be.”
Sadly, there is no statute of limitations on SSA overpayments. Testerman’s story should serve as a reminder that if you think you have received an overpayment, you should contact your local Social Security office immediately to avoid future collection attempts. It is our hope that someday lawmakers pass a statute of limitations for non-fraudulent overpayments, to avoid these types of stories.
If you are disabled and think you may be eligible for benefits, contact our Tulsa Social Security Disability lawyers to help you get the benefits you need. We offer free consultations, and you may reach us by phone at (918) 265-1404.
Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security Disability attorneys
Troutman Touts: If you receive SSI benefits, you must report any changes in your household income to the SSA.