A WOMAN has been ordered to repay $61,000 following a Social Security disability error, leaving her with just $9 a month.
Stephanie Shirley, 65, from Fairport, New York, was forced to stop working after a battle with breast cancer left her too disabled to do her job.
She received a financial lifeline when she was approved for Social Security disability.
Then in November, she was effectively cut off by Social Security who demanded that she repay more than $61,000 within 30 days.
“All of a sudden I get this letter saying I owe them $61,000. The joke is on them,” she told 13 WHAM.
For two years she received payments of around $1,800 a month, then a few weeks before Christmas she received a letter.
“We are writing to update you on your benefits. We have paid you $61,777 more in Social Security than you were owed. Please repay this overpayment within 30 days,” he said. declared.
Along with demanding reimbursement, Social Security also cut her monthly benefit to just $219, which barely covered her health insurance premiums.
Stephanie ended up with $9 a month to live on.
While it seemed like a simple mistake, rectifying the situation turned out to be anything but simple.
“And what shocked me was that we weren’t talking to anyone,” said Rick Dastin, a retired business executive and friend who Shirley turned to for help.
Dastin wrote letters and repeatedly tried to call, often resulting in long waits on hold that often ended in the call being disconnected.
“Even though we could drop in once in a while, the people on the phone couldn’t help us. They didn’t have power or authority. People who had authority didn’t have phone numbers. They didn’t have no contact information,” he said.
Dastin added that he has empathy for Social Security workers and that the system worked well for Stephanie at first.
Attorney Ida Comerford, who specializes in Social Security cases, was brought in to represent Shirley.
Due to the Covid pandemic, many social security workers were working from home and contacting the right person was nearly impossible, meaning dispute resolution often took months to resolve.
Social Security claimed Shirley also received workers’ compensation, so she cut her benefits to almost nothing and demanded the money back.
Shirley, however, was not injured on the job and said she never applied for and never received worker’s compensation.
Due to her breast cancer and serious complications, she has had eight surgeries and will need more in the future.
“I have no feeling in my fingers or my feet…and I have chronic pain, and that’s for the rest of my life. I’m not going to get better,” she said.
The problems with Social Security customer service appear to extend beyond closed offices and unanswered calls.
“We are currently seeing an outbreak in my Social Security office generating letters in our cases and never sending us the letter,” Comerford said.
“They said they sent him four letters before they cut him off,” Dastin said. “Well, she didn’t get those letters.
“We asked them to send the letters back when we finally got through and she didn’t get them either,” Dastin said.
Shirley was kept financially afloat thanks to her brother and sister stepping in to pay her bills and ensure she kept her at home.
With the help of Representative Joe Morelle’s office, Shirley’s full benefits have now been reinstated and everything owed to her has been paid into her bank account.
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