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15 months of Social Security benefits appear in bank account by error

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BATON ROUGE - One woman says she was on top of the world and the bottom in a matter of hours.

While Bertha Coates knows there's no such thing as free money, she thought she had received the money she was owed following her husband's death. But according to a letter she received in the mail from the Social Security Administration, there's been a big mistake.

"So, I don't understand," said Coates. "I went to the bank to find out if it's true because I thought it was a scam."

Friday, Coates learned there was more than $18,000 deposited in her bank account, an amount that would have made a world of difference in her life. News of that good fortune quickly turned to troubles.

"This really is getting the best of me, I can't understand what's going on," she said.

The SSA sent Coates a letter and she quickly learned what she thought was good fortune was an error. Instead of sending her $96 she was owed, the administration deposited her normal monthly amount and a few days later an additional $18,514.

"They made a doggone mistake," she said. "I didn't do that, I had nothing to do with that."

The letter from the SSA says Coates should send that money back in the form of a check and it requests the amount be returned within 30 days. If it's not returned, the SSA will withhold her benefits for about 15 months. Her monthly benefit multiplied by 15 is about $18,000.

Now faced with two choices, Coates isn't sure what to do. One thing's for sure she can't understand how such a large error can happen. She's only thankful she hasn't spent a dime of it, yet.

In May 2019, 2 On Your Side reported a similar story. Donna Deshotels said she'd have to pay back $41,000 in widowers benefits after she was told by the SSA that she'd been overpaid. Deshotels appealed and tells WBRZ she hasn't heard anything since, but now receives $26 a month in Social Security benefits, which isn't enough to fill up her gas tank.

Monday morning, 2 On Your Side contacted the SSA for comment and have not heard back.

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