Thursday, June 13, 2002

Woman relieved after resolving Social Security bill for $102,000

The Associated Press

        NEW MIAMI, Ohio — A 75-year-old woman living on Social Security was stunned two weeks ago when the government demanded $102,107 it said it had overpaid her.

        Viola Adkins said Wednesday that she's relieved the issue has been resolved — and she doesn't owe anything.

        She said she went to a Social Security Administration office last week and told an agency employee that any overpayment would have been in Supplemental Security Income checks sent to her son.

        Ms. Adkins received a letter from Social Security on Tuesday confirming she is not liable for the overpayment.

        Mary Mahler, a Chicago-based spokeswoman for Social Security, agreed.

        Ms. Adkins, a retiree, said her son, Victor Adkins, 48, is mildly retarded and lives with her. The government directly deposits his $545 monthly SSI check in his bank account, while her Social Security monthly check of $967 for widow's benefits is sent to her home in this Southwestern Ohio village, she said.

        She was shocked when Social Security sent her the letter demanding repayment. She said she worked during World War II as a riveter for U.S. military planes, married later and raised four children. After working in the used-furniture business, she retired in 1976 to care for her ailing husband, Franklin, who died in 1994.

        “I don't know what their idea was,” Ms. Adkins said of Social Security. “Who was going to support me? ... I don't have no savings.

        “I was sitting here minding my business, watching television, when I got this letter in the mail,” she said. “I've always worked. I never asked anybody for a handout.”

        Ms. Mahler said that when Social Security believes it has overpaid benefits to someone, its policy is to send a letter inviting the recipient to appeal the decision at an agency office. If the person doesn't respond, the agency recovers the overpayment by deductions from future benefit checks, she said.


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