May 11, 2015 4:52 PM

NH1 News Investigates 'The Feds Took My Money': Can government take back SSI benefits?

CONCORD - Nearly 20 percent of Granite Staters rely on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

Many of them are disabled adults who don't make enough money to live on.

But what happens when the government makes overpayments?

How can the government get its money back?

It happened to one East Andover couple and they turned to NH1 News Investigates for answers.

Rhonda Henderson had a stroke at work, brain surgery, and several more surgeries and as a result, she couldn’t work.

She began collecting SSI about a decade ago.

What she and her husband, Steele, didn’t know at the time was at one point, the government started giving them too much in payments.

So how does the government determine how much people get in payments?

In the end, it’s all based on a person’s income and their assets.

“These are all bills that they have sent me so I do know we owe them the money,” says Steele Henderson, as he showed those bills to us once the Social Security Administration became aware of the situation.

Now that they know they’d have to find a way to pay it back.

The Hendersons claim they tried their best to get answers from the government but they say it was a losing battle.

They claim they just kept getting stonewalled.

“I just don't think they understand,” Rhonda said. “They crunch numbers and they just make you feel like you're a number.”

But after all the years of not paying the money back, the government had enough.

That’s when the IRS got involved and took Steele’s tax refund from last year to pay for the overpayments the government made to his wife.

“I don't see why they can take my money,” Steele said.

So we went to the Social Security Administration and got the Hendersons the answers they claim they could never get.

Bottom line they told us over the phone is that the Treasury Department runs the show and they can essentially do what they have to in order to get the government’s money back.

And that leaves Rhonda feeling like she’s more of a burden to her husband than ever before.

“It's something that hurts my pride because it's something I can help my family with because I cannot work,” Rhonda said.

But we also found the Henderson's what could be a silver lining.

The Social Security Agent told us that since the couple filed a joint tax return, only half of that check, they said, could be taken for Rhonda’s debt.

They also told us that Steele could likely get his half back and that he needs to contact the IRS.


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