Social Security stunner: $22,000 bill

Janet Marshall, Social Security
Janet Marshall of Hesperia says she and her husband were told they owe the government nearly $22,000 after he received too much from Social Security years ago. (Aug. 31, 2017)

HESPERIA, Mich. (WOOD) — More than a decade after the Social Security Administration overpaid a Hesperia couple, they’re being told they owe the federal government nearly $22,000.

Janet and Edward Marshall said they were floored when they got a letter last week telling them to repay the money within 30 days. They have no idea how they’re going to come up with the cash.

“I’m almost died. My husband almost died. Couldn’t believe it,” Janet Marshall told 24 Hour News 8 Thursday. “I mean, after 15 years you send a letter? And what part of disability don’t they understand?”

In each check sent to the Marshalls between 2002 and 2005, Social Security overpaid them by roughly $600.

“(In) 2004, he was receiving $1,038 and he should’ve only got $463.60,” Marshall said, reading the letter from Social Security.

In all, they got an extra $21,970.

Marshall said her husband, who is a U.S. Army veteran, is disabled as a result of a work accident and started receiving Social Security payments because he could no longer work. She said they had no way of knowing they were being overpaid and are afraid of losing everything they own to pay the money back.

She said they’re going to appeal the notice.

“What do we got, you know? It’s not fair, it’s not right. They should’ve caught this, not us,” Marshall said.

24 Hour News 8 reached out to the regional Social Security Administration office in Chicago, which oversees Michigan, asking how the mistake could happen and if the department is willing to work with the family on payments options.

In a statement late Thursday afternoon, the agency said it couldn’t discuss specifics of the Marshalls’ case because of privacy laws. Generally, a spokesperson said that “overpayment can occur for a number of reasons,” that the Marshalls could appeal and that Social Security will work with families to set up repayment plans.

The full statement:

“Privacy laws prevent us from disclosing information on a specific person’s record.  A Social Security overpayment can occur for a number of reasons. If someone doesn’t agree with the overpayment decision or they believe the amount is incorrect, they have the right to appeal that decision. They also have the right to ask Social Security to waive collection of the overpayment if they feel like the overpayment was not their fault and paying it back would cause a financial hardship.  Social Security does not recover the overpayment until we make a decision on the request for an appeal or waiver.
“Social Security offers several options for repaying an overpayment.  For more information, please refer to our publication at”