I-TEAM: Army veteran still struggling with Social Security clawbacks as some have benefits restored

WASHINGTON TWP. — Several people the News Center 7 I-Team has talked to as part of our months-long investigation in partnership with our Cox Media Group sister stations and KFF Health News into Social Security Administration overpayments have suddenly and without explanation had their Social Security benefits restored.

At the same time, News Center is continuing to hear from families in the Miami Valley still dealing with the huge burden caused by the clawbacks.

Vince Gebhardt is a United States Army retiree and is a former Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputy. These days, he says one of his most stressful tasks is a trip down the driveway.

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“It’s caused my blood pressure just to go through the roof. Every time I go to my mailbox, I’m afraid to open it up because I don’t know what to expect from the Social Security department,” Vince said.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) sent Vince and his wife, Michele, an overpayment notice tied to his monthly benefits.

Vince was paralyzed from the chest down because of a motorcycle crash in 2006. He’s been collecting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) because of that since 2007. His checks recently stopped after the overpayment notice came in the mail.

“It’s impacted us greatly. With having to figure out why and what caused this overpayment, what information does Social Security need, how far back do we go,” Michele said.

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The Gebhardt’s told the I-Team’s lead investigative reporter, John Bedell that the SSA has not determined they owe back 11 monthly payments worth of Vince’s SSDI benefits. They’re still waiting on an exact amount and are working out a payment plan.

Aside from reaching out to the I-Team, the Gebhardt’s have also called their Congressman, Mike Turner, for help.

The News Center 7 I-Team reached out to Rep. Mike Turner’s office for comment on Tuesday. Turner’s office confirmed they’re working with the Gebhardt’s. However, Turner’s office added they cannot comment beyond that since their office policy is they cannot comment about ongoing casework.

The I-Team’s months-long investigations done in partnership with our CMG sister stations and KFF Health News first exposed in September how families are being hit with overpayment notices from the SSA. Since then, Congress has gotten involved.

>>PREVIOUS I-TEAM REPORT: ‘Social Security should help people;’ Families stuck paying hefty SSA overpayment bills

Some of the hundreds of people we’ve heard from, like Addie Arnold, have had their benefits restored since we aired their stories.

Arnold is retired and is the sole caretaker for her mentally and physically disabled niece. The SSA mailed her an overpayment about her niece’s monthly checks, saying they owed $60,000. But now, her niece’s benefits have been restored.

“It’s all been great. We’re moving forward, I’ll put it that way. We’re moving forward looking to (2024), looking forward to what (2024) has to bring,” Arnold said. “Before I felt like I didn’t have a voice or that no one was listening to what I was saying. Even with the letters that I sent to Social Security, it seemed like I didn’t have a chance. But then after the story aired, like I said, in September, we received a partial check. October we got a full one. So I was just excited that somebody took the time to listen.”

Still, no one we’ve heard from knows why their SSA benefits have been restored. It’s unknown if it’s from the publicity of our reports or because the agency realized they made some sort of mistake, but the I-Team is going to keep digging for answers.

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